Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's resolutions for 2012

I love this time of the year. It feels almost like magic when I allow my mind to step out of the daily routine and let new ideas spark. The most interesting part is reflecting on the year coming to an end and at the same time contemplating the year which is about to start. It is the time when I realise that life is not only about the daily grey routine but about goals, dreams and aspirations. 

When I reflect on the year past, I normally try to think of the different areas such as relationship(s) with partner, family and friends, finance, health, nutrition, work and spirituality. It is not a tedious exercise. I do it on the beach or when I wake up in the morning. I want to encourage you to do it as well. Take a notebook or your laptop and randomly write things down as they come to mind. Do it when you have time to relax - in the bath tub, at your favourite coffee shop or while dozing off in your garden.

While you busy with this, surely new ideas, goals and dreams for next year will spark in your mind. I turn these in little resolutions and start the new year with new energy and enthusiasm.

However, the most difficult part about New Year’s resolution is to make those newly set goals last beyond February. In December, I often cannot even remember what I had set out for the year. So I thought of some ideas to remind oneself about these resolutions and dreams throughout the year.

My suggestion, take advantage of your electronic calendar and write six little notes/reminders to yourself stating your goals, dreams and things that you want to achieve. Post it on the first of each month from June onwards. Address those notes personally to you. For the first of December you write yourself a special message with encouraging words and also praising yourself how well you have done this year. Write yourself an 'end of year report' which contains mainly grade As.

Write a few postcards with similar messages and put them into envelopes, put a stamp and your address on the envelope and on random days from March to June you send them to you via snail mail. Keep them in your diary and when they fall out, you know it is time to put the next one in a post box. Alternatively, give them to a reliable friend of yours and ask her/him to randomly put those in a mailbox.

Be specific on those cards but only use positive language. 
'It is time to check out the gym schedule and attend your next spinning class' or 'by now you have lost 2 kg, well done.'

'Detox day is around the corner - go shopping for fruit and vegetables' 

' Call friend x - I love chatting with her'
'It's time to (re-)introduce your weekly 'spend-no-money-day'

It is all about your goals, so do not go with things your read in magazines or on the web but write down things that are relevant to your life. Be kind and don't set your goals too high. Make it realistic and achievable. Maybe add an inspirational quote that you like to read and find very powerful. 

My message for you for the new year is simple:

Let your inner you shine during 2012.

Wake up in the morning and ask yourself, how am I doing? How do I feel today?

What do I need today to make this a fantastic day?

Be gentle and kind to yourself; focus on yourself, so you have enough energy to focus on others.

Follow your dreams. 

Wishing you a lovely start of 2012.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wishing you an imperfect Christmas

It is just about time for the Christmas festivities to start. You might probably be too busy to read this because you also are preparing the Christmas meal and wrapping the last presents. Like busy bees we women tend to run around in the shops, clean our homes and prepare the decoration to make it the perfect occasion. It is Christmas after all.

It is often us who put all our efforts into this evening/day. We work hard, exhaust ourselves and the smallest issue will upset us. In all the rush trying to make it perfect, I would like to propose to all of you - pull the breaks. Take it slow this Christmas. Being in the moment, spending time laughing and listening will most likely make this day a memorable one. If one of the dishes is a 'ready-made-warm-up meal', the serviettes are folded the wrong way and at the last minute you see that the stain on the table cloths has not come out from last year - relax. Who cares? It is those imperfections that actually makes one remember. Creating a relaxed atmosphere will make it an unforgettable and special occasion for everyone.

Have an enjoyable and merry Christmas - and a happy holiday season.

Monday, December 12, 2011


It is Christmas time and in the Southern Hemisphere, where I live, also time for an end of year summer break.
My work closes offices as of the 15th of December and happiness is spreading at the office...finally time to relax. I share the odd comments with colleagues about how great it will be to just do nothing. We love and joke and I am really looking forward to it. However, there is this other little voice in my head telling me all the things I can catch up with and keep myself busy with during the break.
I have no doubt that almost everyone is looking forward to get away from the office and be on holiday. But I think specially us ladies, we have the tendency to look forward to our ‘holidays’ because we will then find the time to get busy at the house, to clean, to wash, to shop, to bake, to cook, to tidy up the things we don’t find time for in our daily routines.
So do we actually ever really relax? How often do we take our holiday time to really be on holiday - to just be, read a book, chill with our favourite music, watch a chic-flick?
I know that it is a true relief to get things done that otherwise are constantly on the ‘should-be-done-never-get-around-to-it’ list. 
The question I ask, is the busyness not sometimes an escape of not taking real me-quiet-time? Are we not maybe running away from being just on our own and do nothing?

I think it is partly our society that drills us to always achieve something or do something, to be constantly productive. It results that after a day of just doing nothing, we feel bad, our bad conscious calls out ‘but I didn’t do anything today’ and one tries to maybe at least cook a meal or DO something, to close the day of with an ‘achievement’ of some sort.
I think being constantly busy can also be an avoidance tactic, because we do not know what thoughts might come into our head, when we allow them to. The new smartphones support us nicely in that endeavour because when we really just sit down to ‘do’ nothing, we can still connect with the whole world on Facebook, Twitter etc.
I am not an exception, but I will put in some serious effort to just do nothing at least for a few days during my holidays and I encourage all of you – do the same – you can. You deserve it and owe it to yourself.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

now now

Today I overheard a conversation at work during lunch time. One of our foreign (English 2nd language) interns asked the question: 'Can you please explain to me, what is the difference between 'now now', 'just now' and 'now'...(I think the expression 'now, now' is specific to South Africa.)?

This reminded me of my previous blog entry about time. So while I could hear the different attempts by my colleagues trying to explain the nuanced differences between those terms, I thought to myself, how amazing it is that there are three expressions to describe a very short difference in time. Interestingly, I would translate the expression 'now now' as the intention to do something almost immediately but quickly do something else before that. Instead of using 'just now' but repeating the word now, it is almost like a double affirmation that it will happen soonest. It also carries a little bit of naughtiness to stretch the period before the action takes place.
The above describes something similar to the word 'just' in the previous entry. I think it is hilarious how we use language to describe our perception and intention about time but hardly ever to describe real time..

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Time or no time...

Time has become such a precious commodity and I often wonder if I apply it in a wrong way. I came to think about it when I was trying to fit more reading time into my schedule. My job requires me to be on top of the national and, best case scenario, also on top of international news, read newspapers and online news. At the same time I should keep myself on top of relevant content matters by reading academic literature on various topics. Besides that I do like reading fiction and novels. In total I maybe get 5% of the above mentioned done and I am wondering why. 

I started wondering about time. I am not a busy working mom with three kids and a household. I am not even married yet, no dependents or other duties, besides my job. I have a relationship. I try and live a balanced lifestyle, exercise and eat healthy, hence cooking at home. I enjoy socialising (moderately and not all the time) and at the same time also have some me-time. I spend time with my family (at least over Skype), I intend being outside in nature when I can and I like writing (hence the blog). And I obviously have the normal daily life things to do like doctors, admin, bank etc...that is pretty much it and I would argue that is still less than a working mom has to pack into a week. Why do other people seem to get it all into their schedule?

I debated this topic with a friend of mine and she added another interesting spin to the debate. She mentioned that we tend to say things like ‘I am going to just quickly...’ or ‘tomorrow I am just going to...’. The term ‘just’ does not really work. Everything takes time, and mostly more time then ‘just’ justifies. ‘Just’ doing the grocery shopping, takes at least a minimum of an hour even if you the most focused shopper in the world considering that you have to include driving there, filling the cart, queuing, paying, loading your car, get home and unpack...’ So, many things that we think we can do ‘just quickly’ can actually take up half days.

I also don’t want to end up scheduling my whole life – 15 minutes for this, 1hour there and plan my whole week like an office diary. I like living, being, enjoying. Is it the signs of the times that make us think we have to do all these things? Or are these our own internal pressures? Will it be true that in twenty years, not gold or money will be the most valuable things, but time and nature?

I do not know how many of you know the book Momo by Michael Ende. It is a children’s story also talking about time. In the book grey men come to take over the world. They smoke cigars and those cigars are made out of time/hours of people. So, if you stop caring, socialising and only dedicate your time to work, work, work, you save time and they live it. It is a scary thought, but I often feel there are grey men in my life 'smoking up' my time.
How do you deal with your time?

When friendships take their turns

Have you ever found yourself doubting a long-term friendship realising things are just not the same anymore?
It is a tough one. Once we find a friend that we call our 'best' friend, we are glued for life. Nothing can separate us. You know everything of the other person and she knows everything about you. Her number is the first you dial if you brake up, you pregnant or get engaged. When women make close friends they become soul-mates. It might not only be the one and only best friend in life but there are just a few with which we have a relationship of such close nature.
When any of those relationships go high-wire, it is very challenging to decide what to do. I think we normally choose to pretend all is still the same and we continue as if nothing has changed. Gradually you start seeing each other less, share less and the relationship becomes artificial.
Another way to address the issues is to 'pile up' anger and create a mega drama and fight resulting in the braking-up of the relationship - painful but fast. After which you will probably never see each other again.
The middle way right in between is difficult. The two of you know each other inside out. You know how to hurt the other, but you also know where the other hurts most. You know the strong and weak sides. And most importantly - you still like each other a lot. Something has changed. It could be circumstances, one self, the other person - whatever it is - getting on seems more difficult. As much as women have these awesome relationships, most of them have one weakness, we not good in criticising and talking honestly to each other about our relationships. I think most women will agree, men will be a bit perplexed....'if they can spend talking for hours and hours how can they not be able to talk about themselves?' Trust me, in many instances it is like that.
So taking all the courage and having that specific talk about ‘things have changed’ is tough; to come up with productive and creative ideas on how to salvage the relationship, might proof even tougher. Possible solutions? Maybe the chat alone will already set some energy free. Otherwise, solutions are not much different to those when your love relationship is in crisis.
  • A little bit of distance at first. 
  • Then, doing things together to have common experiences outside of the daily life or the friendship routine.
  • Allowing space for open and honest talk.
  • Being careful and respectful.
I can just encourage 'the talk' which will hopefully yield good results. The biggest plus? You might be able to maintain a friend.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Caterpillar-butterfly theory

I often wonder why we tend to fall back into bad habits, make the same mistakes over and why life often feels like repeating itself. My theory is that for real change to happen one has to go through a caterpillar-butterfly process.
When I went through painful experiences, I assumed that I would have learnt a lesson and I would be able to avoid repeating the same mistakes. I often assumed that the pain occurred and at the same time the hunger for change would be enough of a catalyst for the same things not to re-occur. I was wrong. I tried to look at the cases where I feel a ‘true transformation process’ has taken place and I came up with my caterpillar-butterfly theory. So there is the pain/the experience, followed by a moment of reflection and introversion. Once that phase is over, shed the old skin, free yourself and emerge beautifully transformed.
The sad part about this theory is that even when I thought I had become a butterfly, I often found out that I was still only a caterpillar. I basically got stuck between the safe walls of my cocoon. So why is it so difficult to go through truly transformative processes? The difficult part of real change is that it does not only mean regretting the mistake or showing good will to get rid of a habit, but to actually go into an in-depth inquiry about oneself. And then, it is about stepping out of the comfort zone and to accept the change. All of this sounds so obvious and simple...but I promise you, it is not.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lessons from the trip

I am back from my holiday break. I had an awesome time and as predicted, disconnecting helps to change perspectives, recharge batteries and gain new insights.
In a nutshell, these are the things I took with from my three weeks of holiday.
  • Simplicity is beautiful.
  • Trying new things open horizons.
  • Just going with the flow is very relaxing.
  • Snorkeling is like flying in the water.
  • It is good to have family in other parts of the world.
  • Travelling with someone who is caring, relaxed and open-minded is a big plus.
  • Clothes and lots of things are cheap in Asia.
  • Gained new energy to tackle ‘problem areas’ or personal challenges.
  • Home is where your heart is.
I hope the list might encourage some of you to go on a trip soon.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Taking a break

I am going on holiday for the next three weeks and this time, I will truly be offline. Yes, even an internet junkie as I am has to take a break. 
I once read the '20 ways to get good Karma' by the Dalai Lama and those phrases stayed quite vivid in my mind. One particular sentence stuck with me stating that one should once a year go to a place one has never been before. I had not read this before in any of these typical collection of 'wise phrases'. Since then I try to do it in which ever form I can afford it.It is worth it. It makes a difference to expose oneself to something unknown and new. It refreshes mind and soul. So, I am off for my annual retreat.
When I return I will surely have many new ideas to share.

Here some beautiful inspirational clips if you have a short break in the day: Steve Jobs: How to live before you die; Say What you will (before it's too late);    

Take good care. Take a break once in a while.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Broaden your horizon

Stepping out of my ‘usual’ space for a day provides new insights and ideas - not only for my work but also for me; even though I went only to a different city. It reminds me how stepping out of ones comfort zone and own space (physical and mental) broadens your horizon. Travelling, studying and working abroad have often exposed me to more things than I was looking for.
For example, expecting to learn the language of the country I am visiting is an expected outcome. However, to learn so much more about my own language and understand how translating it directly into a foreign language can in other cultural contexts appear rude and very offensive, was an interesting discovery.
Experiencing new cultures, countries and people the most inspiring is to learn something about one self. The engagement with other people and cultures made me re-think and even question my own cultural core assumptions and beliefs. Meeting the other has provoked more change ‘within’ than I ever expected.
It does not mean that going elsewhere will have the effect of learning and discovery. I have also met people who lived abroad and successfully blocked out all new things. They actually put in a lot of effort to remain the ‘same’ by downgrading all that is ‘different’ with the sentence ‘where I come from we do it this or the other way, which is much better than...’
It is a difficult exercise to explain to others the possibilities that open up when broadening your horizon. I would like to encourage you to try it out and to never get tired of exploring new things. It keeps you fresh, humble and excited about life.
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