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Speak Up, Speak Out

The post below is by a guest who wishes to remain anonymous. It's an important topic and I'd love it if you'd please share on your social media or other platforms. I have recently been driven and inspired to share my story with you all in hopes of giving courage to anyone out there who might be having a similar experience. 

Thank you,
Liberty

About 9 months ago, I achieved just one of my dreams. I landed my dream job of being a designer. I had been struggling for so long to gain this, but it looked like my hard work and dedication had paid off! Like anybody else, I was brimming with enthusiasm and was looking forward to the adventure of starting my new job and relocating from a city to a town.

Months passed, and I loved my days, designing for international and national brands. Life and work were good. It was only a few months into my role that things took an unexpected turn. Although, as a teenager I had experienced bullying on some level, I never thought for one second that I would experience it as an adult - and from other adults!

On a number of occasions, I experienced comments regarding being teetotal and my lacto- vegetarian diet. Some I took on the chin as lighthearted humour, but when it continued I knew something wasn't right.

It became even more questionable that it was not right when people laughed and I didn’t join in! Comments such as the following arose: “We will have to change that about you," “That has a whole egg in it you know," “Come on, you don’t drink, you're vegetarian...what do you do then?" Following these comments, the instigator would always laugh whilst others joined in.

However, on a much more serious level I also experienced direct racial comments. I was called "Brown [my name]" directly to my face by a fellow colleague, following a number of inappropriate words taking the mick out of my Indian culture.

I was totally numb and shocked! Had this really happened to me? It took a few hours for me to even register what I had experienced.

I sought out much advice from family and friends. Half of them urged me to leave my job, and the other half told me this was direct racial discrimination and I should tell somebody in a position of leadership.

After much deliberation, I had to go with my own gut feeling and what my heart was telling me.

Eventually, I built up the courage to tell my manager. I thought I could trust her and usually as you do find in life, there is always one person with whom you feel most comfortable, right?

I told her what the fellow colleague had said to me whilst she was away from the studio, and she was as shocked as I had been. I felt a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

But I was to learn later that this really wasn’t the case.

Once I had told my manager she went and informed the HR manager. When she came back, her opinion of the matter had changed. She seemed more inclined to the idea it was not as serious as I was making it out to be. In my head, I was thinking perhaps the HR manager or someone else had influenced her.

Nevertheless, I was told that the HR manager would have a talk with this colleague and it would go on her record.

A few days later, the colleague who had made the comments apologised to me. She said it was a joke to which I responded that I didn’t find it funny! She made a few other excuses, but I accepted the apology in hopes that things would change and I could move forward.

Later, I was to find out this was just the beginning of everything getting worse.

A day or so after the apology, I saw and heard the colleague who made the remarks to me telling other workers around the business. Following on from her unprofessional behaviour I received further comments like “Brown” as I walked through to the office from another worker and other inappropriate remarks relating to the fact that I had told the HR manager.

Upon receiving these backlash comments, I felt both intimidated and anxious at work. My trust with my manager had been broken and I didn’t feel I could trust anyone in my workplace. At this point, I had been logging and writing down what comments had been made to me.

I would wake up every morning feeling sick. I was restless throughout the day. Eventually, my work and health suffered; I could no longer focus. Weeks at work seemed like months, and I always had the anxiety of being bullied about my colour, culture and life choices.

You might be wondering, why I didn’t tell anyone? Honestly, I believe it’s because of the fear the bullies had put in me. My confidence vanished and hence I had to do something about it. Clearly, I could not carry on like this. I had to make one of the hardest decisions. I handed in my notice.

On my last day, I did inform my manager and HR manager of all the incidents that had happened. They suggested it was banter and that I was getting mixed up, but clearly it was much more than that, especially as I didn’t start any of this, nor did I join in or laugh with them.

Ultimately, they didn’t want to take responsibility for their behaviour. Even though not many people understood, I was proud of myself for speaking up, even if it was my last day.

I guess the main point I am trying to make to anyone who is reading this who might be experiencing a similar thing is you must speak up and out. Don’t leave it until it begins to affect your health and performance. If the people you tell break confidentiality or trust, as happened in my case, there is always someone higher.

Try managing directors, Citizen's Advice Bureau, or great anti bullying organisations.Good people and advice are out there; don’t suffer in silence.

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Feelings. Better Out Than In.

Far too often, most of us choke on our feelings. We feel tears welling up with that awful, aching lump in the throat, and we take several deep breaths, forcing the emotions back down where they can do all kinds of damage. They make us sick or depressed, give us physical pain and discomfort, sometimes with the weirdest symptoms that doctors simply cannot explain.

We fear being seen as weak. For some reason, our culture thinks a display of emotion means we're out of control. But there are only two occasions on which emotions can hurt us.

One is when we stuff them and do not acknowledge them. The other is when we make hasty decisions purely because of our feelings, without thinking them through, and end up hurting ourselves - or others - as the result of our poor choices.

But there is nothing wrong with having painful or difficult feelings, and there is nothing wrong with expressing them (appropriately). Having them makes us human. Expressing them helps to get rid of them and it connects us with others, many of whom will offer support and comfort, thereby strengthening our bonds with one another.

The best way to get rid of unwanted feelings is to immerse yourself in them. Take a little time and allow yourself to really feel every bit of whatever it is that hurts. If you want to cry, cry. Lots. Until you can't cry any more. You'll feel a whole lot better for it. If you're frightened, feel the fear. Ask for some hand-holding. And remind yourself that you are strong enough to get through anything.

Do whatever you need to do when bothersome feelings are standing in the way of you and your happiness, and let them out. Get it over and done - once and for all.

Think of it as housecleaning. Gathering all the rubbish and putting it out on the drive to be collected on trash day. If you keep digging, eventually you'll find less and less “stuff” that needs removing and turfing.

This doesn't mean it's a good thing to sit around and feel miserable every waking minute either. You must strike a balance. But certainly, choking back unhappy feelings is not any better for you than spending 24/7 whining about your miseries for days, weeks and months on end. Once the crying jag is behind you, take some time to look at the positives in your life. Set some goals and take a step or two (even if they're teeny) toward achieving them.

Just don't be afraid of your feelings. Allow them to be heard. You can't fix what you don't acknowledge, as the good Dr Phil says. Give your feelings a chance to speak up so you know just what's on your plate. Chances are, the more you do this, the quicker the issue will dissolve or will find a resolution in your heart.

You wouldn't let an infection fester below the surface or in your blood. You'd be off to the doc, figuring out how to fix it because you know that infections left untended can kill you. Well, negative emotions can do it, too. Quietly and insidiously by giving you cancer, heart disease or a million other ailments, or a little more overtly by making you say and do some very hurtful things to yourself and/or to others.

Expressing your emotions is the great equaliser. It makes you the same as everyone else. It levels the playing field. It shows your strength. It shows your vulnerability, your softness.

It helps people get to know you because they see just what affects you on a deep level, which then connects you with everyone else on the planet because really, we are all pretty much the same in many ways. We are unique in our personalities and in our perceptions of our life experiences, of course, but everyone hurts, everyone needs, everyone feels some version of the same emotions. How we do all of this and how we express these aspects of ourselves is what separates us from one another.

But we're really not so different in terms of our emotions. So go on. Stop hiding behind a wall that you think keeps you separate and sets you apart from everyone else. Because I can assure you, you're not fooling anyone. We know you hurt, too.

And we'll be here for you when you're brave enough to tell us about it.

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Feeling Uncertain About Your Future?

I know how it is to feel like you’re immersed in nothing but question marks. Whether it happened suddenly or by stealth, your life seems to have taken a turn down a road that’s dark and thick with trees so you can’t get a glimpse of what lies ahead.

It can leave you feeling uncertain about everything and fearful about not knowing what lies ahead.

But the truth is, we never know what lies ahead, not beyond the very moment in which we are standing. We make plans and we think that they’ll turn out as we expect. Even though we know sometimes it doesn’t happen like that, usually we keep moving forward on the assumption that things will go according to plan.

And we’re shocked when they don’t. Or we’re hurt or feel like we’ve failed. Or we’re afraid because we feel like we don’t have any control over our lives.

In reality, control is an illusion. It’s really just about having a plan and believing it’s going to go as you want. But other things come into play and things happen that you hadn’t anticipated, or perhaps you had but you thought you might be able to stop them.

You have this moment, and only this moment. The only truth that exists is the one that you experience right now. 

Everything can change in the next five minutes or the next breath. Things come out of the blue; life happens and the only thing we know for sure is that change is a given.

When you feel like you can’t stand the not knowing, just remember that you never really ‘know’ anyway. You’ve only got a plan, but there’s never any guarantee that it will turn out as you want it to do. 

When you accept this and just be open to going with the flow and seeing how it will all turn out, you’ve done yourself the biggest favour in the world. Now you don’t have disappointment, because you’ve given up expectation. Now you don’t have fear of the unknown because you’re happy to see whatever comes and view it as an adventure.

 

When you feel lost, it’s all about your perspective. You don’t really know any more or less for having a plan or not - because life will continue to unfold as it’s going to do. Be at peace with this moment and the rest will take care of themselves. 

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Your Strength Is Just Hiding Under A Pile of "Stuff"

It's wonderful to watch people go from strength to strength, taking the difficulties and wounds from their lives and chipping away at the healing and growth that come with time, practice and patience. We're really pretty amazing beings.

We can "take a licking and keep on ticking", as the advert for Timex watches used to say a million years ago.

People don't always react in the same ways to particular stressors. Some people seem to sail through extreme difficulties, whilst others crumble with fairly minor setbacks. What is it that makes the difference?

Well, there's no simple answer to that. Personality plays a part in it. Some people are just generally more easygoing than others, right from childhood. There are those little kids who never seem to get wound up, and others who come unglued over the littlest things.

So we've got a predisposition to cope well - or not - right from when we come out of the chute, so to speak.

Then you throw in learning and experience. Are you someone who has been through a long list of challenging events? Has the universe been hurling things at you over and over again? Have you been finding ways to cope with them through counselling, or support from groups or friends?

Or have you just slammed the door on all of that, and muddled through somehow, despite feeling completely overwhelmed?

People who have seen a lot of adversity may have developed some coping skills that those with less difficult lives haven't needed to use. It's the kind of practice no one wants, but whether we like it or not, some of us get anyway.

Whether your problems are enormous by someone else's standards or not is irrelevant. If they feel like they are to you, then they are. No one else has to live in your shoes or deal with your experience, just you.

So what do you do when you're overwhelmed by troubles? When you feel like you've had one boulder too many piled on top of you?

I've lived there far too often in my life, so I know what that's like. Sometimes I've bounced back quickly, other times not so fast.

It's always hardest when the only light you see at the end of the tunnel is the train coming at you.

There have been times when my usual tricks haven't worked. When it got really bad, I mean really, really bad, I couldn't find even a glimmer of hope, and that's a terrible place to be. I'd look down the road ahead and couldn't see anything positive.

All I could think was that there was no point being here any more, because it was just too much of a struggle with no end in sight.

It's not often that I've been in that place - thank heaven. But at least I've found something that helps me to get out of it.

When looking ahead doesn't do it for me, and in fact just makes it feel worse, I look behind me. I look at some of what I've been through in the past. I look at the traumatic and terrifying times, or the extreme financial struggle, or the life-threatening health issues.

I can look back through my entire life and see decades of difficulties lying there behind me, events I thought I'd never survive, struggles I thought would never end.

But here I am. I did survive, and those troubles did end. So when things get really awful now, I remind myself of that. I look behind me and see what I've overcome. I remember that I didn't think I could have done this or that - but then I did. It's like losing your car keys or that all-important pile of documents you need first thing in the morning. You know they're here somewhere, buried under a pile of 'stuff'. You just have to dig around a bit to find them.

When you're feeling like you can't go on, or you don't know how you're going to cope with the mountain of stress or problems you're encountering, you can reconnect with your strength by remembering that you've had it in the past.

You've come a long way, dealt with so much, and quite possibly with a whole lot worse than what you're going through right now. But you got through all of those hard times. And you found more of your strength with each problem you overcame.

Your strength doesn't leave you; it's always there, hiding under a pile of 'stuff'. You just have to remember it.

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How to Tell When It's Time to Say Goodbye

Do you ever find yourself struggling with certain people who are your friends or romantic partners? Does it seem that no matter how much you love them and try to make the relationship or friendship work, you spend more time being miserable than happy? Do you feel like a salmon swimming upstream, constantly fighting to get somewhere, to make progress, or to make it feel right and to be happy, but you just can't seem to get there?

Perhaps those people keep blaming you for everything that's wrong between you. If only you were more like this or less like that. If only you would do this and not do that, they wouldn't get upset. You live your life, carefully tiptoeing around on eggshells, worrying that you will say or do the wrong thing, trying your level best not to cause a disturbance.

You become anxious, always anticipating what might set them off. You think it's all your fault that they are unhappy - because this is what they tell you - and therefore, it is your fault that you are unhappy, too, because your happiness depends on theirs. You feel rejected; you believe you're a failure and that all you've done is cause those people nothing but of misery.

And then you have a break from those people. Someone goes on holiday or you and your partner separate for a while. After a few hours or a few days, you start to breathe easier. You begin to relax. You smile again, and it feels foreign on your face. You giggle a bit and maybe even laugh a lot. You associate with other people who think you're bright and funny and sensitive and kind.

You begin to feel like your old self. You start thinking perhaps their misery is not your fault after all. Perhaps those people have some issues. Maybe they're just impossible to please. Maybe they're demanding or miserable or irritable, or just plain selfish, through and through.

You're outside the box now, with some breathing room, able to look at those relationships with a different perspective. You see that they're very lopsided. You do all the giving, and the other people do all the taking until you have nothing left to give. But away from them, you feel your strength returning, your sense of worth, and your dignity. You vow that you will not be treated like that any more.

Then the break is over. The holiday ends. Those people are back in your life, in your space, and almost immediately they're complaining about this and that, and you're sliding back into that place of believing that their unhappiness is your fault.

In a heartbeat or two, you're back where you started, feeling worthless, depressed, resentful, frustrated, and desperately lonely.

You're as miserable as you ever were, and once again, you're that poor little salmon, swimming upstream, fighting against the oppressive currents of negativity and control that are swallowing you whole.

The pattern continues. Every time you separate for a while, you feel better and are happier. But when you're with them, life is miserable and you don't feel good about yourself.

There are numerous reasons why we get into these situations or why we stay in them but I can at least tell you this: If you have several good relationships with people who appreciate you and enjoy your company, and with whom you get along well, but there is a certain person in whose company you are consistently unhappy, take a closer look.

We can learn a lot about ourselves from difficult relationships, and sometimes we can work within those relationships to make them better. When both parties recognise that there's a problem and want to fix it, that's a good starting point.

But when one of the people refuses to accept any responsibility and does nothing but point the finger of blame, and has made it clear that he or she has no intention of working at what's wrong, then it's probably time for you to end your association.

I'm all for trying to fix a problem in any kind of relationship. But there are times when we must recognise that it is beyond our control. Sometimes we have to see that being in the company of certain people is destructive, that it's toxic and will only adversely affect us.

When it is clear that this will be ongoing and the other people involved refuse to budge, then you must walk away, for your own health and your own happiness.

You can bet that those people have troubled relationships elsewhere, too, and that they blame other people for everything that's wrong in their lives. You can bet that they are not happy people in themselves, but this is their stuff to fix, not yours. You're not responsible for anyone else's happiness or loneliness or social life.

When you have ongoing problems with a certain person, but no amount of talking has helped and you just feel more and more unhappy or your self-esteem has plummeted, bear in mind that you've always got the best gauge for figuring out what to do. That gauge is your own feelings. Just look at how you feel when you're with that person, or involved with that person. And then notice how you feel when you have some breathing space and some distance. If you're consistently or frequently miserable in the company of that person, and happier on your own, that's all you need to know.

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Sometimes All You Can Do Is Nothing

Doesn't it just drive you mental when you're watching people make choices that you just know are going to have disastrous results? They might have asked your opinion and if you respect them, you'll have been honest with them (as tactfully as possible).

You might have offered your opinion without being asked (which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your relationship) - and there's never a guarantee that it will have been heard, but that's not up to you. At least you tried.

Despite obvious negative consequences, some or all of which may even be acknowledged by these people, they continue on their destructive path, rushing headlong into some nightmare or other, ignoring the wisdom of anyone who might have had anything to say on the subject.

And there you are, standing on the sidelines, bound and gagged watching someone you love or care about, careening down a steep hill on a bicycle at an insane rate of speed, and you're just waiting for the splat!! when they hit the brick wall that's waiting at the bottom.

It's natural for us to want to fix things for the people who are important to us, to prevent them from being hurt or making mistakes and winding up in some kind of trouble.

But the truth is, experience is the best teacher. If people don't 'get it' from thinking about the consequences of their actions, the only way they'll figure it out is to go through it.

They'll have learned something about themselves (or will repeat the lesson at a later time...a bigger ouch each time, until they learn it), and they'll have learned something about you, too, that you do have a clue, that your judgement is sound - at least sometimes.

They'll have learned that perhaps it's wise to at least consider the opinions of others who have an interest in their wellbeing.

It's especially awful when it's your children who are making these frightening (for parents) choices and ending up suffering the consequences of their foolhardy actions.

But no matter who it is, we can only do our best to guide, suggest and direct. After that, all of us have the right to choose our own paths, no matter how difficult they might ultimately be.

It could be said that there are no mistakes in life, only opportunities to learn. And it's true that experience is the best teacher. I know it doesn't feel like that when we're helplessly watching loved ones heading for a crisis but sometimes, all we can do is be there to support and encourage while they pick up the pieces of their lives.

And thank heaven, we're there to do it.

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You Can't Help Someone Who Doesn't Want it

There's nothing quite like hearing the desperate pleas of people who are in distress. Immediately, I'm touched by their pain and their fear, understanding at least in a general way what they're going through, as I've had such a lot of extreme difficulties in my own life.

My first response is always to offer help. It comes in various packages, depending on what the problems are. Sometimes it is accepted. And other times, it is not. Suggestions are ignored or there are "reasons" (read: "excuses") why they would not work.

It's not my stuff so I just back off and leave them to it.

They will invariably pop up again with more pleas for help, telling me how much worse it is, how miserable, awful, rotten, painful, or frightening it is.

And again, I will offer my help. And it is so frustrating when once again my offers are refused.

So I get to the point where I say, "Okay, I'm here and I'll do this or that for you. All you have to do is say when." I refuse to cram "help" down anyone's throat; it doesn't work if they aren't willing to receive it so why waste my time and energy? I can make the offers and after that, they've got to do their part and speak up. I'm not here to babysit or to shove people into accepting something they don't really want. Their words are screaming, "HELP!" but their actions say "Oh, cancel that. I don't really want it after all."

It's like watching them hanging by their fingertips from the edge of a cliff with a loooooooong drop down to a river and jagged boulders. There they are, screaming for help, and there's me, reaching out and saying "Here! Take my hand! I'll pull you up!" and then they continue to hang there and scream.

Time and time again, I've witnessed this, and I know many others have experienced it, too. It's not even just about leading the proverbial horse to water. I mean it's not like the horse is just standing there, minding its own business, not really caring one way or the other whether or not it has a drink. I'm talking about the horse dying of thirst, desperately dehydrated, absolutely parched and just this side of death, signaling as best it can that it needs a drink - and when you put a bucket of fresh water in front of its mouth, it turns up its nose, and looks away.

(*Sigh.*)

It's true you can only help those who want to help themselves. Sadly, many people either don't really want help; they just want attention or they want someone else to fix it or rescue them, or they aren't prepared to do what's required to get unstuck.

But if someone else is yelling for help, and you say "Okay, I will do this for you" and there is no response, and they yell again and you say "Okay, I will do this for you - just tell me when or what you need" and there is still no response, then it's time to leave it in that person's lap. If you've said, "Just let me know" and they don't, that is their responsibility. It's not your responsibility to chase after them and keep asking, and keep suggesting.

You can't do their learning for them.

At some point, it is best to let them figure it out for themselves. Put your offer 'out there', and tell them to let you know if or when they need it, and let them take responsibility for their own issues, their own healing, their own readiness to change their lives and get out of their messes. Perhaps there is some bigger karmic issue they need to work out, some major lesson about assertiveness or healing some emotional issue that keeps them locked in their unhappiness.

The bottom line is this: If they really want to be unstuck, they will take the big leap that pushes them to take you up on your offer.

You're not responsible for fixing the rest of the world. You can help it along - but only when that help is truly wanted, accepted and appreciated.

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Life Is A Big Fat Question Mark

Does your future seem uncertain? Are you in the midst of a lot of turmoil, wondering what's going to happen next? Do you feel like you're stuck in quicksand, having no idea what to do? Are you facing several doors and you don't know which one to open?

Perhaps you know some of what lies ahead. You expect your job will continue, or your marriage or relationship will carry on, but meanwhile, there are other Big Unanswered Questions hanging over you and not knowing the answers is doing your head in. You cling to the bits you know, any parts of your life that you expect to remain the same. Somehow, those "certainties" make those awful questions a little easier to bear whilst you're waiting for the answers to come.

You find yourself looking ahead, seeing loads of huge and unnerving question marks kind of blur together to become one really big fat overwhelming one. It can feel quite daunting but it helps if you choose to believe that there's a reason for all of it.

I remember one particular situation in which too many "unknowns" were becoming rather frightening until I realised something. Although we think we have some general idea of where our lives are going and what's going to happen next (at least to one degree or another), it's all an illusion. We do not ever really know what is waiting just around the corner; we only think we do.

We never know when something really awful and devastating - or something really magnificent and magical - will happen and completely disrupt and change our lives. The future we have planned, whether it be an hour ahead, a day, a year or decades, is all in our heads, an image, a wish, a plan, a hope. But there is never a guarantee about any of it.

The reality is that all of us are living with a big, fat question mark staring us in the face. We choose not to think about it, clinging, instead, to everything familiar and comforting, while we pray that nothing happens to blow our plans to smithereens.

The problem with this is that when it does all blow apart - as it sometimes does - we're completely knocked off balance. We don't know how to cope with the Big Unanswered Questions because we've become so used to "knowing" (or rather, thinking we know) what's familiar, what's happening, and what's coming. Remove the familiar or the expected, and we come apart at the seams.

I'm not suggesting we shouldn't have plans or dreams. Those are what keep us moving forward, giving us a reason to get up every day and do what we do. But we need some perspective about them. We must remember that plans and dreams are ideas. They can become reality, but they are not yet reality. They are not carved in stone. They are subject to change at the whim of the universe, of circumstance, or of many things that are beyond our control.

This is where we get into trouble - when something knocks us off course, sending us down a different path and blowing our plans all to hell.

If you're feeling like you've been cut adrift because now there is uncertainty in your life, think about this: There has always been uncertainty in your life. You may have thought you knew what was going to happen, but it was only a plan. The truth is that every moment beyond the one you're standing in right now is an illusion. Your plans can be a map and give you directions to your preferred destination, but sometimes the map gets picked up by a gust of wind and blown out the window.

If you can be prepared for the fact that this might happen, you won't be hit as hard as someone who lives by - and for - the map. Yes, your future is uncertain. It's always been uncertain; that's nothing new. You just didn't see it that way. Nothing's really any different today than it was when you were living in the illusion of your plans, when you thought your life was mapped out for you.

Make your plans but do not cling to them, for it is in that clinging and attachment that your pain is born when things go awry. Just focus on right here, right now. Forget the question marks. They'll always be there, and the answers are unfolding in every moment of your life.

Let go of the need to know what will happen. It is impossible. The future will take care of itself, one moment at a time.

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"Hard" Does Not Mean "Impossible"

So you're facing something that's going to be hard to do. That's no reason not to do it.

"Hard" does not mean "impossible". No doubt you've faced loads of other things in your life that you thought would be really difficult, even when you were a little kid. And somehow, you did them anyway. You look back on those "little kid difficulties" and of course they're easy peasy now, right?

And perhaps you wish life could be easier - at least sometimes. But there's a reason why it isn't.

Each of us is here for a reason. We've all got a purpose and it's your job to figure out what yours is. Would you really expect that to be easy? Chances are you won't know what your purpose is unless and until you've been knocked around a bit and learned a whole lot about yourself. That's the only way to discover who you really are, and what's important to you, and how you can make a difference in the world.

In order to prepare for that, there will be a lot of learning to do. When you first start running, or going to the gym or taking yoga, you're stiff. You can't run very long, lift too much, or stretch too far. And it hurts like hell the next day.

But you keep at it, doing it again, and repeating the exercises, at the end of a week you can run a little easier, and stretch a little further. With continued practice, you improve, running, lifting, or stretching more all the time.

If you never encountered any obstacles or hardship, you would never have a reason to discover your ability to deal with problems. You would never learn how to cope with stress. Emotionally, mentally and spiritually, you would remain as a young child, never progressing because there would be no reason to do so.

We are here to learn. The only way we can make it easier is to pay attention to the lessons, to do our homework. Otherwise, we will keep getting the same lessons, usually in bigger and nastier ways, until finally we've cracked them.

If you want to keep slamming your head into a brick wall just to check if it really does hurt like last time, then go ahead and keep doing it. You're only causing yourself more pain and delaying your ability to progress beyond that point. The quicker you accept that your head + a brick wall = pain, the better off you'll be.

It is said that we are never given more than we can handle. From a wealth of personal experience, I'm very well aware that sometimes, that seems like a huge load of rubbish.

But you know what? I've also discovered that it's the truth. The only sticky bit is that we have to choose to handle it. We take a deep breath, and try a little harder. This is how we discover what we're really able to do and find out just how much inner strength we really do have.

Yup, life is hard. But it's also loaded with rewards, many of which come from a sense of accomplishment when we've overcome obstacles. We find our feet and learn what we can do, which gives us confidence and building blocks for the next set of challenges.

You've done lots of difficult things in your life and they've made you the wonderful, unique, and very special person that you are today. And if you're not feeling so wonderful, unique or special, think about what you've overcome, what you've achieved, and how many difficulties you crushed like bugs.  Remind yourself that you're still standing! You did it! And you're a better, stronger person for it!

See? "Hard" isn't such a big deal after all.

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Adulthood Should Involve A Journey Toward Childhood

When we're born, everyone within our circle of family and friends is excited as we reach each milestone in our development. Sleeping through the night, getting that first tooth, sitting up, walking - every step shows that we are growing up.

Throughout childhood, we are taught to sit still, to mind our manners, to contain our enthusiasm and our giggles in situations where they would not be appreciated. We are given chores, homework, and taught to take on responsibility, all of it in preparation for becoming independent adults.

Gradually, we become less playful, more responsible, and we are officially "adults", working, taking care of our errands, our homes, making sure we have taxes done before the deadlines, seeing to car repairs, and generally looking after all the mundane details of life. There is so much to do.

Circumstances change, obstacles are thrown at us. We lose jobs and can't find new ones. We become seriously ill. We struggle with relationships, with legal matters, with difficult children. We spend many years or even decades feeling as though we have the weight of the world on our shoulders.

If we're lucky, there comes a point at which we realise that this is no way to live. We recognise the fact that being an adult is not much fun, and we long for joy and laughter.

We watch children playing and wish we could squeal and giggle and delight in the simplest pleasures as they do.

Sighing heavily, our shoulders sag and the wistful smile fades as we remember that we must behave like adults.

Essentially, we spend our lives, from the moment of birth, trying to become less like children and more like adults. But once we're there, once we understand and live with our responsibilities, there is no reason in the world why we cannot reconnect with the childlike, playful spirits that hide within us.

Unfortunately, for many of us, childhood was not a happy time. Some of us would even say we did not have a childhood. In that case, it's even more important to discover the freedom, the lightness and joy that come from connecting with that little child who is just aching to come out and play.

I'm not just talking about being silly and playful, although these are good for a start. I'm talking about taking a more childlike approach to life. Your average kid doesn't freak out and stress about what's going to happen next week, next month or next year. They're not worrying about what they did two months ago, two years ago, or even earlier this morning. They're too busy enjoying "right now", completely immersed in the moment, focused on the task at hand, whether it's painstakingly practicing their penmanship or smooshing paint around on a piece of paper with their hands.

By nature, children are very egocentric. The world revolves around them. This is to ensure that they survive, that they get their needs met. Most of us could do with a dose of this "What about me?" attitude, as it can be far too easy to put ourselves at the bottom of a long list of other priorities.

But in reality, if we do not take care of ourselves and what we need FIRST, then the rest of it eventually falls by the wayside and/or we become depressed, exhausted, depleted, burned out and resentful. No one else is responsible for our wellbeing; that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of each and every one of us, to take care of ourselves so that we're able to take care of our responsibilities and to do our bit for each other, and the world at large.

When eyeing a plate of cookies or a piece of pie, children will naturally gravitate toward the largest one, something most of us would do except that we've been taught that this is rude. But all I can say is "Good for them, they know exactly what they want and they go for it."

And how hard is it for a kid to be in the midst of cleaning a very messy bedroom, or doing a huge pile of homework, and sneak in a break, play with a toy or read something fun or stare out the window and daydream for a while? Not hard at all.

Yes, of course it is essential for us to learn how to become functional and responsible adults. But that doesn't have to mean that our spirits (which are so easily visible in childhood) get permanently buried under a mountain of obligation and worry just because we're over the age of 18. That little spirit in each of us is meant to keep us balanced, so we can manage the necessities and complications of human existence, whilst enjoying the experience and getting as much out of it as possible. It's not supposed to be all work and worry!

It seems that childhood is meant to be a journey toward adulthood, but adulthood should involve a journey toward childhood, too.

Now is your chance to get moving. Pack a lunch - making sure you get the biggest cookie - and enjoy that journey. It'll bring you more joy and fulfillment than you've ever known.

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"I'll Stop Procrastinating Tomorrow!"

Some of us hit the ground running in the morning and dive headfirst into a busy day, accomplishing, overachieving, burning through tasks like there's no tomorrow (and if there wasn't going to be a tomorrow, frankly I'd just as soon not work my backside off today).

Others of us drag ourselves out of bed and stumble through life, doing what we want, doing some of what we must - leaving all kinds of things for another day.

And then there are others who are in between somewhere, which is probably best anyway, as extremes are never good and balance in all things is a really good plan.

If you're at all familiar with my books or my blog, you'll have heard me go on about taking breaks, about leaving some things for another day, another time. You'll have heard me say, in essence, "Don't do today what you can put off till tomorrow."

And here I am today, saying the opposite. Today, I want to talk about procrastination. So how can I keep telling you to slack off and have some down time, and then I turn around and say, hang on a minute, quit goofing off and get back to work?!

Well, it's not too complicated really.

Let's start with the basics of procrastination. There are loads of reasons why people keep putting off things that need to be done, whether it's household tasks, mundane errands, tedious stuff at work, difficult conversations with people or anything else they'd rather not do. And just as burning the candle at both ends and in the middle isn't good for anyone, neither is being at the other end of the spectrum and just leaving things undone as a regular occurrence.

The reasons for both behaviours will be emotional issues that could stand healing because whether you're a workaholic or a procrastinator, both are destructive and will keep you from being all you're meant to be - which keeps you from happiness and fulfillment.

Why do people procrastinate? For some it is an issue of control. If people feel like they have little or no control in their lives, they will sometimes delay doing things that are expected of them. It's a form of passive aggression, a way to say "I'll do it when I'm good and ready, and not when you tell me, or not when you want it."

People who are notoriously late for everything often fall into this category, as well.

Sometimes people procrastinate because of self-sabotage. This can have all kinds of roots but they run deep and can manifest in numerous ways over the course of a lifetime. Shooting oneself in the foot is usually the result of low self-esteem, feeling undeserving of good things, or believing that you're not meant to be happy. So you set yourself up to fail in order to validate what you believe about yourself.

For people who don't feel worthy of having a wonderful life, they will often do things that will make certain things go wrong as often as possible. They might "lose" a document or "forget" to meet a deadline that could give them a better job or some opportunity that could benefit them.

Procrastination can sometimes be the result of fear. It allows people to avoid facing their fears of failure, success, confrontation, the dentist, bad news from the doctor, telling a partner "It's over" and a million other things.

But not facing those situations doesn't make them go away. Avoidance only allows the fear to grow stronger as it takes on a life of its own, and often ends up blown way out of proportion - and then procrastination seems an even better idea. The chicken-and-egg cycle continues, sucking the energy out of anyone who is caught in it.

The more they put off, the heavier the burden, as 'thing' upon 'thing' piles up, one on top of another, on top of another, leaving them feeling completely overwhelmed with 'stuff to do' but not having any idea where to start. And for those people who live in a constant state of procrastination, that's an awful lot of negative energy to willingly add to their lives because they don't want to face their fears.

If we're going to have productive and happy lives, it is essential that we see to the boring bits of life - and sometimes it means facing the scary parts, too. Often, the thing we fear never happens anyway and meanwhile, we've been holding ourselves back from the possibility of success and happiness. When we don't 'take care of business' in our lives and just let things pile up, we're deliberately adding more stress, more worry and more negative energy to the mix. Nothing good can ever come of that.

Being a workaholic is not good. Neither is procrastinating. It's never good to live in an extreme situation of any kind; it is unnatural and unhealthy. The key to finding balance is to understand when something is causing you harm.

Whether you're doing too much or too little, if it's to your detriment and is causing problems in other areas of your life, then something needs to change. It's hard enough to find happiness in this life with all the obstacles that are thrown at us. But we don't have to make it harder on ourselves by being out of balance because of the choices we make.

If we ever hope to find happiness, it has to begin with a point of balance between work and play, between responsibility and 'goofing off'. If procrastination is a problem in your life, perhaps start with the simplest things. Make a list of everything you know you need to do, and find the ones that you think you can tackle without too much trouble. Keep working away at that list and as you see things getting done, you'll feel the load lighten and your energy increasing.

As you move through the process, examine the feelings that come up and if necessary, find a good counsellor or even a self-help book to assist you.

And one last thing: Don't be thinking, "This is a great idea! I'll do the list later!" If it's a great idea and you want to get moving in your life, feel better and be happier, do the list now.

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Prioritise Your Life. Then Re-Prioritise Daily.

It's easy to get caught up in the urgent and immediate tasks that come up at home or at work. There are deadlines everywhere, a pressing need to do this or that and it can all get to be too much.

When we get all wound up with being busy and getting things done, we can go overboard and pile more and more pressures and deadlines on ourselves. We think we can maintain our usual standard of care when it comes to work, home, family and ourselves, all of which can be very energy-draining and time-consuming. Throw in the urgent extras that pop up, but rather than cut out some non-essentials, we continue to keep everything functioning as normally as possible.

However, there are only so many hours in a day. Sometimes what we think are priorities could be moved a little lower down the list. Perhaps, in those really stressful, busy times when unusual pressures are heaped on top of all the usual ones, we can begin to let go of some of the others.

For example, some people insist on scouring the bathrooms top to bottom every day, or hoovering or washing floors first thing every morning. Or they use bath towels once and throw them in the laundry. Maybe they're picking up after their children rather than encouraging them to do it for themselves.

The point is that our homes and lives won't collapse if we let go of some of the usual things we like to do on a daily or regular basis. We must learn to delegate in times of extra stress and "busy-ness", letting go of, or handing over some responsibilities to others who are able to do them.

When life gets out of control with too many pressures, it is essential to prioritise. Let go of what doesn't really need to be done today or this week. Move it well down the list. Pick out what absolutely must be done, and if you're having a hard time narrowing down the list, look at the possible negative consequences of each job on the list and this will help you figure it out.

For example, there's a big difference between "must get taxes filed" if it's the day before the deadline, and "must do the hoovering".

And then there are the other priorities, too, about taking care of yourself. If your list includes wanting a daily walk, and insisting that the whole bathroom be cleaned every day, floors and all, perhaps you could think about the benefits of going for a walk, as compared to the benefits of having a sparkling bathroom. Buy one of those 'cleans as you flush' thingies, give the sink and taps a quick once-over with a disinfectant wipe and get out for that walk.

It's not enough to prioritise once and expect it to last. It's got to be done every day. It's essential to remind yourself every morning of the things that are really important to you, which bits really must be done, and after that, re-organise priorities so you are consistently and consciously working at what matters most in your life.

Just make sure that you are high on that list every day, too, because if you aren't in the category of what matters most in your life, you - and everyone close to you - will suffer for it.

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