In my day job as an education consultant, I come across a lot of people who strive for perfection. It’s something that I’ve noticed more and more in the teaching profession over the years, no doubt associated with the amount of testing, assessing, checking and re-checking (just in case things have changed in the three minutes since the previous assessment was made).
In trying to understand and help, I found this ‘perfect’ quote from Brené Brown, who is a researcher professor at the University of Houston, Texas.
“Perfectionism is armour. It’s not internally driven like healthy striving. It’s externally driven and fuelled by ‘What will people think?’ Perfectionism is a shield that keeps us from being seen. Here’s to a genuine, unamoured, messy, awkward, compassionate, less-than-perfect life.”
I love this attitude and strive for it daily, saying to myself that it really doesn’t matter what people think and it is perfectly acceptable to be seen. How about you? And for more on the marvellous Brené, take a look at www.brenebrown.com.
This week, I am celebrating the re-opening of my town’s library. I have missed the library more than anything else since the start of lockdown.
Libraries are such special spaces for me. When I was 16, I had a great Saturday job which involved very little work and provided lots of free stuff. I worked in my local library and could borrow as many books (and, as it was the 1990s, tapes, CDs and videos!) as I liked. It was a very relaxing place to work as it was so quiet – not yet the realm of singing sessions and toddler play areas like there are nowadays…
Many of my friends worked in noisier, busier places, under much worse conditions and for less reward. I was very lucky to have such a great introduction to work-life (compared to the scarring of the stint I did in a men’s clothes shop during the holidays once – urgh, the utter BOREDOM!).
Then, at university, I often had a free Thursday afternoon, so would go to the depths of the Clinical Sciences library and immerse myself in books on the brain. I loved it!
Every time I go to the library, I feel calm and reassured by the relative peace and the quiet way people move around the space. It got me thinking about how we can inhabit a library-like space in our minds, browsing the accumulated wisdom on the shelves of life.
When we ‘visit’ the library in our minds, we can listen to the silence and be aware of the stillness. Quietness in an atmosphere means there is the presence of quiet minds; quiet minds are not only relaxed, they can concentrate easily and create more freely. #loveyourlibrary
This week, I’ll mostly be noticing the tiny things that are immensely satisfying, even if only for a short time. Here are some of those things:
What about you? I’d love to hear about the tiny things that spark joy and that you cherish. They don’t need to be fancy!
I know so many people who started 2020 with big plans. Some were trying to change an aspect of their behaviour: doing more of something, doing less of something, or trying something new. Others were heading in new directions with work projects. And then, because of the upheaval of the year so far, resolve and motivation have begun to flag, understandably. Many people are experiencing a ‘what’s the point?’ attitude.
There is change all around us, every day, and it can feel like a struggle. I’ve been asked so many times about how to overcome this, and here are my brief thoughts.
I learnt an interesting nature fact this week: that the roots of a redwood tree are just six to twelve feet deep. Instead of growing downward, they grow outwards, and they extend hundreds of feet laterally; in all, the roots can occupy over an acre of ground.
They secure themselves by wrapping around the roots of other trees. So, when the weather turns nasty, it’s the network of closely intertwined roots that allows the trees to stand strong.
It’s the same with humans. Relationships are crucial. It’s our interconnectedness in business, communities and nations that matters, particularly in poor weather. We need others to help us survive. And like the inter-relatedness of redwood roots, we connect with others to thrive.
Having had a bit more time to ponder recently, I’ve been thinking about how I can manage all my ideas and thoughts without my brain exploding. For me, breaking things down into lists makes them more manageable.
Here are some of my favourite list titles to help me corral all my ideas, from the most to the least important:
What are your key criteria for a good list? I’d love to hear them.
A couple of years ago, when I was feeling ambitious and capable, I made a plan to put all the face-to-face courses I teach onto an online teaching platform. I had all the content ready, some beautifully designed workbooks, and a mountain of ideas. But I did nothing! In fact, the paper that I wrote this plan on (which is still on the wall in front of me now) has almost completely faded from sunlight.
It’s a well-trodden path for me: all the ideas and grand plans, but never the time to execute.
Stepping away from my normal lifestyle at the moment means I’m not out and about every day, visiting schools, running training courses and workshops, and teaching my community and private exercise classes. At home, I’ve had the time to think, plan and implement.
So, after a very long wait, here is the fruit of my labour: Clean Well-Being Online School! My school is a place to find out more about education, well-being and health.
Currently, I have three training courses uploaded:
with more to come soon:
I’d really love to hear what you think about it, if you have any ideas or suggestions, or questions. Thanks!
Sometimes, it’s great to have a moan. I love it! It can feel liberating to let rip, to list all niggly things that exasperate and frustrate me. I feel it’s a necessary part of life. But there it ends – otherwise, it can become an indulgent habit, one where I hang out frequently as it’s an easy and comfortable spot.
How do we flip out of moaning as a habit? I heard something recently (from one of my very wise friends) that chimed with me. Instead of incessantly whinging about what’s not going right, say to yourself: “Today, I get to…” and fill in the blank. Even if your day (or week) isn’t going too well, it can sometimes help to find one or two things that help tip the balance.
My ‘I get to’ blanks today are:
What’s in your list today? I’d love to hear from you!
Do you feel like moving more?
Perhaps you’re working from home and your body is yearning for movement but you can’t get up because you’re on a Zoom call and you haven’t got properly dressed on your lower half.
Or maybe you’ve just been sitting down for too long, staring at a screen, waiting for lunchtime.
Whatever the reason, here are a few ways to try incorporating more subtle movement into your everyday life, because sometimes leaping around just isn’t feasible!
What are your favourite stealthy exercise moves? I’d love to hear them.
This week's blog is about stretching - of the body and of the mind.
If you exercise, you might know about the need to stretch out your muscles at the end of your workout. It's to help your muscles get back to their pre-exercise length, which should mean that you won't ache afterwards (a day or two later, perhaps). Stretching your body regularly throughout the day can ease any aches and pains too, and help your body feel better. It can help you breathe more easily too.
And what about your mind? Do you stretch it regularly? I don't mean by just doing the odd tricky puzzle or trying to get more than one correct answer on University Challenge... What about by questioning yourself more? If you challenge your opinions and values, you can gain clarity on all sorts of things, and be sure that you 'own' your ideas (and not regurgitate other people's).
How will you stretch your mind and body this week? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
In this week’s blog, I’m thinking about how, when confronting a problem or a difficult situation, many of us face it with worry or negative thoughts. This is a well-trodden path and is really familiar, so we keep doing it.
On the outside, it looks like the situation is being faced, when in reality on the inside it isn’t being dealt with effectively. And that is when it feels like ‘failing’.
Changing mindset here can really help, as the best way to deal with a situation is to start by calming the mind. Only a calm mind can find the answers to problems.
As humans, we need to understand that every problem has an answer, and that when our minds are relaxed, we can rely on ourselves to find the answer that is already there.
Are you trying to start something new or change your behaviour in some way? If so, you’ll know about the effort involved, and how much energy, enthusiasm and will power are needed. When we try to change our behaviour, particularly our health-related behaviour, it’s really important to have the right type of support.
This is where your ‘tribe’ can help: having people on your side who can help with new health-related behaviour, who support and encourage you, who help you reach your goals, and who won’t pull you backwards.
Perhaps you’re trying to do less of something, or more of something. Some people around you might try to get you to go back to your old ways:
“Just one glass of wine won’t hurt…”
“Don’t bother going for a walk, it’s so dull.”
“Why are you always trying to learn new stuff? What’s the point?”
If this is the case, think about what sort of support you would like instead: who is going to support you and remind you why you wanted to change in the first place?
Who is going to congratulate you when you reach your goals? Who is going to listen when you are finding it tough? They don’t have to be with you physically, just in spirit – and perhaps at the end of a phone or video call when needed.
Surround yourself with people who want you to stick it out. They are your tribe and they will ultimately help you achieve what you set out to do.
Do you like to multi-task? For many people, including myself, the ability to multi-task is like a badge of honour, as if I’m saying, “Look how many things I can juggle at once! Aren’t I impressive and capable?” But increasingly, I’m finding that I don’t do any of these tasks particularly well. I can flit between several different things and think I’m doing something pretty special, when really, I’m not doing anything very effectively. It all becomes a bit tiresome.
Have you come across the phrase ‘single-tasking’, when only one thing is done at any time? By focusing on just the one job, it can be done efficiently; and increasingly, I’m finding that I enjoy it more too. I can relax out of the whirlwind of being ever-so-busy and lean into the singular task in hand. It’s a great feeling to corral my thoughts and actions into one task, staying focused and in the flow. It takes a bit of practice, but like all skills worth having, I need to put the time in. So, from now on, it’s one thing at a time.
I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation, and how often it can become dependent on other people’s input – yet how difficult that can be now, what with the distancing and lack of normal rhythms for many people. I believe it’s important to have a cheerleader in your life. Someone who encourages you, motivates you and celebrates your wins. Someone who helps you pick yourself up again after set-backs, who reminds you of your worth when you’re feeling down, and who genuinely values you and what you do.
Then I thought, what if we were our own cheerleaders? We could have this cheerleading presence with us all the time, and we don’t have to rely on someone else to be there, in person or not. This seems to me like a winning formula! How about trying it out? Rather than waiting for someone else to lead the cheering for you, take the DIY approach. If that feels too tricky, practise on a willing volunteer before you embark on being your own cheerleader. Let me know how you get on.
I’m going with a nature theme this week, mainly because I’m in awe of it all at the moment. Having spent more time of late staring at the trees in my garden, I’ve been struck by how wonderful they are.
The thing that occurred to me the most, though, is how gentle trees are – and how this gentleness isn’t about a lack of strength, but more a sense that they don’t disturb; they don’t push yet they know their power; and they can provide shelter for many others. I’m now considering being more tree!
Hi, I'm Joanna from Clean Well-Being.
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Clean Well-being blog