Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The only measure of success is how well we cope with disappointment

The title of this blog entry is based on the film 'The best exotic Marigold Hotel' which I mentioned at the end of my last blog entry. Our success in life is usually measured against material things like income, house(s) and cars or against achievements in our careers.

This phrase, in contrast, indicates, that those things do not matter. How satisfied and happy will my life be if I never own a house or a big car? How can I still go to work with a smile every day if I am not nominated for the hoped promotion?

Besides those more materialistic success, this sentence challenges us to find success by finding coping mechanisms when life hits hard.
What if a very close friend of yours will not make it to your wedding? What if you realise after 30 years of marriage that it has not been working for the past 15, it will not be working anymore and your dream of 'happy ever after' crushes right in front of you?
What if your best friend betrays you or you discover your child is stealing from you? What if you find out that your life savings are gone due to a wrong investment or that your health will not allow you to ever go on the overseas trip you have been dreaming about your whole life? 

Tough questions, no easy answers. However, the sentence challenges us to accept that real success is not about the things that go right and the things we do well. It is actually about all the failures, mistakes and tragedies in life. The tools and ways we find to cope with those and overcome those are the true success stories of our lives. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Let faith not fear guide your actions

Fear is such a dominant factor in our daily lives and I would argue that many of our decisions are based on our anxieties. 
There are big fears such as loosing a loved one or being retrenched but there are even more smaller fears that determine our days. There is the fear of not looking good, gaining weight; the fear of being judged by colleagues and neighbours; the fear of not being a good mother, sister, wife, or daughter; the fear to get old and to be lonely; the fear to fail, the fear of not being able to relax and the fear of not being a good friend.....
I think we all could continue this list endlessly.The sentence 'let faith not fear guide your actions' sounds like something that could hence be relevant for many of us.
Some of you that do not practice any religion might ask the question - faith in what? Let faith not fear guide your actions is not only something for the religious but actually encourages to be more trusting in life. A simple metaphor is the trust that the sun will rise again. Trust that things will be ok (again) and that you will be the best you can by just being you. Being ruled by fear takes away our ability to enjoy life and to take decisions that we are happy with.
I do acknowledge that it is not an easy task to overcome fears. However, if you look at it from the perspective that life proofs day in and day out that things will be 'ok' - maybe sometimes in ways we don't appreciate it at first or don't want to see - but pain and disaster is never endless. Fears do not help to improve any situation either but add additional pressure and result in bad decision making patterns. Fear does not take away the unpredictability of life. Faith instead assist in a positive outlook on things. It frees up your mind and allows an optimistic-realistic perspective.

Having watched the movie 'The best exotic Marigold Hotel' provided me with a great closing sentence for this blog entry. Judi Dench, in the role of a pensioner in India, said towards the end 'the only real failure in life is the failure to try'. So don't let fear make you surrender to the 'only real failure' but let faith make you rather 'try' and experience what you think is right.

I would like to dedicate this and the past entry to a very dear friend of mine who inspired me and continues to do so in many areas of my life.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Progress not perfection

One of my friends recently shared the expression 'progress not perfection' with me.
I am someone who has her goals set and aims to reach them as soon and best as I can. In some instances that process works great but in many instances it can become demotivating if the goal is not immediately achievable and seems still far. I get frustrated and upset. 
Instead of looking into the progress made, appreciating each step and lesson learnt, I focus on the goal.
 
I will share a very recent example. I signed up for an online course to learn mindful eating on my new favourite blog zenhabits.net . The idea of the course is that you create the habit of mindful eating. You start step by step and try to eat one meal a day mindfully for a week, then move along to eat mindfully and healthier to then get by the end of the month to the point that everything you put in your mouth will be done in a mindful.
After three weeks on the course I just managed to have one meal a day (and not necessarily the entire meal) applying the mindful eating habits. I got upset with myself and looked for all the things I am doing wrong and badly. Which almost got me to give up.

Looking at it from the 'progress not perfection' point of view assisted to actually appreciate my achievement. Mindful eating and mainly eating slowly has not been part of my eating behaviour for almost 33 years of my life. Why do I expect to master it within three weeks? I realised that the progress made was actually quite amazing. I had started to break a habit which for years I had not been able to break. 
I listed all the little successes that come with the mindful eating of one meal a day. This list helped me to see that I am on a good path and that I am doing well.

We tend to be quite hard on ourselves when we don't achieve our goals. Being hard on ourselves does not help and has often a negative effect. I want to encourage you to look out for the progress made during every step of your path. You will be able to analyse your lessons learnt during the process. You can celebrate you courage, your strength towards change. If you only do it in the end, it will not last long. If instead you celebrate each step towards it, you will remember the failures and the successes and it will grow your confidence.

Share your story of progress not of perfection.
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