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Book recommendation: Making your Dreams Come True by Marcia Wieder

By July 28, 2017 Blog, Career, Making Dreams Come True

Marcia Wieder is a best-selling author, TED speaker, CEO of Dream University, repeat guest on the Oprah Winfrey show.

Marcia’s book Making Your Dreams Come true (also available as an Audible audio version) is a blueprint for finding your personal purpose, which will underpin and guide the dreams you pursue, how to live following your dreams (rather than being a slave to your schedule) and powerful strategies for those times when negative thoughts and doubts threaten to derail your path to success.  The writing style is accessible, engaging and very practical and the methods can be applied to any dream (even if at this point your dream is to have a dream…).

Marcia is always personable and down-to-earth in her writing and speaking appearances but has over 30 years experience in the industry and knows her stuff! (Which is why her Dream Coach® program was the very first training I undertook as a success coach).

If you have any questions about how to apply the methods to your particular situation I would love for you to ask in the comment section drop me an email at infochicbalance@gmail.com.

Alternatively if you feel one-on-one coaching through the Dream Coach® program might be right for you, have a look at the course outline here.

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Why I never got on the “gratitude” bandwagon…and the power of words.

By July 9, 2017 Blog, Making Dreams Come True, The Blog

“I got you a job in the fish factory…Little Miss Anya it’s time to take your place in life  and in line.  And be grateful”

-Phlegmenkof to Anastasia in the animated film Anastasia.

I love appreciating the simple pleasures in life as much as the next person, often stop to think how fortunate I am to have such supportive and wonderful family, friends and collegues and have recently taken on the practice celebrating successes, large or small on a weekly basis.  All sounds pretty similar to the concept of the gratitude movement right?  And yet there is something about the word grateful that…well…grates on me.

I’m sure it dates back to connotations formed in my childhood.  I don’t think there was any one moment where it happened, but an impression I got from society in general that to voice that you wanted something different to what you got was to be an ungrateful/a horrible person.  I remember my mother lovingly cutting up an apple for my lunch to make it easier to eat. I wished she wouldn’t because the apple would always turn brown and soft.  But I didn’t want to say anything in case that seemed ungrateful.  In retrospect I’m sure she would have been all too pleased not to have to cut and wrap an apple for each of 5 children!  Anyway, now I like to substitute the word gratitude for appreciation, feeling blessed/lucky/fortunate, or celebration.

Hope is a wonderful and entirely positive word right?  Maybe to most people it is.  But I  have been coaching a client whom it turns out the word hope has a disempowering effect on!  She had fallen into a pattern of not fully committing to things she set out to do because she didn’t expect them to work out, and this was becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.   Her approach became to put in a less-than-full effort and then “hope” everything would work out.  For her “hope” came to mean that she had little control over what happened in her life and that she was at the mercy of luck. So instead of “hoping”  she is now “believing/planning for/taking action to ensure” things work out the way she wants them to.

Success coach Emily Williams talks about not using the word “expensive” and instead taking about an item being high-end or quality.  This shifts the feeling of the item being unattainable and difficult to justify buying to being valuable.

I myself never used the word debt in relation to my student loan or mortgage as I see these as good/normal/reasonable investments and “debt” has negative connotations.

So, certain words can trigger certain negative emotions and thought processes.  Some words like “debt” and “expensive” are widely recognised to have negative connotations.  Some such as the examples of “gratitude” and “hope” here are highly personal/individual. The important thing is to become aware of these trigger-words in order to manage your thoughts and move them in a direction that is condusive to achieving the results that you want.  This may involve desensitising/forming new connotations with the word if you wish, or simply substituting the trigger words with other words that invoke a more positive/helpful thought process.

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How to Make A Break-Through Despite Feeling Stuck…

By July 4, 2017 Balance, Blog, Career, Making Dreams Come True

So you have an incredible vision of something that you want.  Good on you.  You are special, and strides ahead of anyone who accepts an unhappy existence, not daring to dream of something better.  But what do you do when it doesn’t seem to be happening?  Maybe you know that you haven’t put  in a full effort to achieving your dream or haven’t fully committed to it yet.  Or maybe you have been putting in 110%, doing everything you can but things just don’t seem to be progressing.  Either way, (go ahead and assume that what you want is fully possible) and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is………(insert your dream) something I really want?
  2. Am I prepared to do everything I can to (ethically) make it happen?

If you answered yes then this article is for you.  (If you answered no, maybe it’s time for a different dream?).  In this post we are going to look at a few areas you can work on to unblock your path to success.  Sometimes a small tweak in approach might be all that is needed, sometimes a major mind-set shift is in order!

Not all advice applies to everyone at any given time.  So I have represented each point as a spectrum.   For best results try to identify which end you lie closer to, and consider how you can develop a more balanced approach.

  1. Keep your promises<…………………………………………………>be prepared to re-negotiate

Are you often late or find you don’t follow through on things you start?  Do you tend feel discouraged and give up when things get difficult? If so, focus on  keeping your promises to other people and more importantly to yourself.  Even something as small as committing to being on time consistently will start to change your mindset to one of following through and getting things done.  Then you will be able to trust yourself to follow through on bigger and bigger projects.

 

Or do you tend to stay on the same path even when there doesn’t seem to a good reason anymore? Do you tend to resist change?

It is essential to success to be able to persist when things get difficult.  But if it gradually becomes apparent that you no longer want what you are working towards, it may be time to re-negotiate the goal with yourself or others involved.

 

(Note: when you suddenly feel frustrated/like giving up, this is likely the natural resistance that comes with working through a challenging time.  Our minds are very good at coming up with excuses not to persist when things get difficult!  While uncomfortable, these thoughts are also a good  indicator that we are being challenged and are in a position to grow by pushing through the challenge.  On the other hand, when it slowly dawns on you after much thought that you need a change in your path/goal it may be worth exploring what that change might be).

 

  1. Don’t give up <…………………………………………………> try a fresh point of view

Some say doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.  True, but that doesn’t mean giving up.  Doing something differently  could mean means identifying the obstacles and figuring out ways around them. This could be a small tweak to the approach you are trying, or coming at it from a completely different angle.

“People think innovation is just having a good idea but a lot of it is just moving quickly and trying a lot of different things” Mark Zuckerberg.  So if something isn’t working, brainstorm, read around the topic, bounce ideas off other people.  Try a slight variation, a completely different approach or do both at the same time.

 

Part of not giving up and being creative in your approach is also developing a positive attitude to failure.  If you are not failing at something regularly, chances are you are not challenging yourself regularly.  Every failure not only started as an opportunity for success, but becomes an opportunity to grow and hone your approach.

 

Look at successful people in any field and you will see, a lot of the time it’s not that they are smarter/more talented than many other people who didn’t become successful.  But they were persistent and creative in their approach to reaching their goals.

 3. Cultivate a positive thoughts <………………………………>take action (don’t think too hard!)

The first step to success is expecting to succeed.  So it’s great to have a positive mindset and to feel inspired and enthusiastic.  But we all have days where that doesn’t happen.  On those days, I find it helps to have a list of tasks that I can just get on with regardless of how I am feeling without having to think about it too hard.  Sometimes the simple action of pushing myself to make progress is enough to pull me out of a negative funk.

 

4. Acknowledge negative thoughts <………………………………> take charge of your thoughts

You know that voice in your head that starts coming up with negative thoughts and doubts when you think about reaching for a goal?  The voice that comes up with excuses not to go ahead when you think about doing something difficult/uncomfortable even though you know it will help you progress?  Many coaches advocate giving this “voice” its own identity and name (Marcia Wieder calls it “The Doubter”, Carrie Green calls it “The Negative Committee”) .  I like to call it “the voice of negativity”.  Giving this voice its owns identity can help you to constructively tune into these negative thoughts, identify where they are coming from and separate them out so that they don’t have to colour everything that you think.  Then you can more objectively assess these thoughts, identify the pearl of wisdom within them (this voice is good at identifying obstacles which you can then construct a way around) and then remove any excessive melodrama which might block your positivity and path to success!

 

5.Ask for help <…………………>make it easy for the other person/make it a two way street

Most people actually like the idea of being able to help others. So don’t be afraid to ask.  But for your benefit and theirs, as Marcia Wieder says, “make it easy for them to say yes”.  For example saying “could you help me with this…. (really big project)…..” and not specifying how, requires that person to do all the heavy lifting/thinking and less likely to respond to your request.  But coming up with some options and saying “could you help me by doing….( a), b) or c))” makes it a lot easier for them to decide if they can do one or all of those things to help.  Be respectful of their time, be concise and always be on time.

It also helps to be considerate and giving and either make it so that the other person gets value out of helping you or make it clear that you will be available to help them out in the future.

 

6. Celebrate successes <…………………> keep the goal in sight

I have adopted the practice of celebrating success from 7 figure success coach Emily Williams and inspirational author and speaker Cara Alwill Leyba.  Both do this with inspiringly well with style, glamour and pizazz!  When it comes to keeping a positive mind-set, there are few things better than regularly celebrating small (and large) successes.  Whether with a glass of bubbly or lunch out with a friend, celebrating success is a great way to remind yourself you are moving forward, even when your ultimate goal may still seem far away.

On the other hand, keeping your eye on the prize keeps you from being complacent and keeps you continually moving forward.  It also helps to focus daily tasks by regularly reassessing whether what you are doing is in alignment with your goal.

 

7.Learn with an open mind <…………………> learn with a questioning/objective mind

Feed your mind with all the resources you can to grow and move towards your goal.  But take the time to monitor what you are taking in.  Be open to considering different approaches, but look for evidence to back up what you are reading where applicable and consider whether the advice is right for/applies to you at the current time.

 

8.Know and trust yourself <…………………> Get objective opinions

As above, separating negative thoughts/excuses which are motivated by a fear of something new/difficult from other thoughts is very useful.  But if you are used to letting this “voice of negativity” run the show, so to speak, it can be very difficult to separate it from reality/thoughts of reason.  This can take time and in the meantime it can be helpful to seek the advice of a wise friend, mentor or coach to help you sort through these thoughts when faced with difficult decisions/challenging times.

 

9.Love yourself as you are<…………………>never stop growing

As an example, if you are trying to get in shape, it is healthier and more sustainable to love your body and focus on caring for it getting it healthy than punishing it with restrictive diet and excessive exercise.  But I myself have fallen into the trap of using punishment/negativity as a motivator rather than starting from a place of self-acceptance and moving towards something positive.

I used to be motivated to achieve by the fear of not amounting to anything/not reaching my potential/not making a difference/being a disappointment.  I had no wish to get rid of these fears as I thought they were  useful and necessary motivators.  However, through my work in success coaching and self-development, I have found that a mind-set of loving yourself and looking forward to a dream that excites you is far more motivating and condusive to creative solutions.  Not to mention that it makes for a much happier and fulfilling life!

Of course loving yourself as you are doesn’t mean you won’t work to improve yourself/invest in yourself.  Think about what you want to achieve and then become the kind of person that would happen to.  Want to have a successful career? Work at your craft but also get well connected and network.  Want to meet an amazing life-partner?  Be inspired by your own dreams and you will glow, know and feel secure in yourself. Want to be an amazing performer? Build an image based on your most unique, winning qualities.  There is something unique and special inside you that only you can offer but it is hard for other people to see it if you don’t know what it is yourself or how to channel it.  Work towards being the best version of yourself.

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Tricks to Finding Inspiration Fast

By June 9, 2017 Blog, Sparkle, Magic and Wonderment

These are my favourite ways to jump-start the flow of inspiration and ideas whether I have a tricky decision to make, problem to solve, choreography or song to create, or witty enigmatic title for a boring research presentation to come up with…

 

  1.  Let it GoThat is, thoughts or false beliefs that are holding you back.  Grief, emotional baggage, self-doubt, lack of closure, limiting beliefs…all these things severely squelch creativity and inspiration.  Repressing or ignoring these thoughts won’t prevent them from subconsciously affecting you. They need to be acknowledged and either put in perspective or let go.

2. Get a Whole New Point of View

A few months ago I decided to go on a “Medical French” weekend course.  This involved getting up at 7am, going to bed after 11pm and spending pretty much every waking minute with people I had never met before…speaking French!  (They had this huge Napoleonic hat with a plume of feathers poking out, and if they caught you speaking English, they would put it on your head).  Boy was that intense… I was neither particularly fluent in French nor comfortable networking with people.  There are few times in my life when I noticed I vastly improved at something overnight,  but this was one of them.    Even more eye-opening, I realised I had forgotten the huge diversity of people there are in the world (even amongst doctors).  Most of us surround ourselves with people who are quite similar to ourselves.  Most doctors I knew, like me, were city-dwelling, academic and worked long hours in hospitals.  At this course there were doctors who worked with asylum seekers (or had been one themselves) and had the most amazing stories of bravery and resilience. Some stories were incredibly sad and traumatic.  A great many of the doctors I met at this course had worked in different parts of the world including third-world countries, war-torn countries, small towns and deserts.  I had thought, having started my family, I had missed my chance to do something like that.  But there were doctors there who had adult children and were beginning a new phase of life with new adventures in every sense of the word.    So, push yourself out of your comfort zone.  Jump and find out you can swim.  It’s worth it.  Meet  new people, go somewhere you haven’t been before, try a new food/cuisine, try fencing/rock-climbing/aerial silks/painting/a clowning class/______________etc.  You get the idea.

 

3.  Day-Dream

It is possible to think too hard about something.  I find the best way to develop an idea is to zoom out and casually “day-dream” about it.  Let the idea take form on its own, let your mind wander and follow the train of thought that appears.  This technique works best if you have a bit of time.  At least a few days to let your thoughts percolate and the idea gradually take form.  Many people find it helpful to do their thinking during a quiet walk or commute eg. Mozart used to compose his symphonies in his head while out for a carriage ride…

 Win Wenger, author of “The Einstein Factor” amps up this technique even further with what he calls “image streaming”.  Ever had the experience when you are almost but not quite asleep and a series of vivid images flash quickly thorough your mind?  Image streaming involves training yourself to do this while awake; being open to receiving images from your subconscious mind and training it to give you more and more useful ideas.

4. Sleep. and solve problems at the same time

Sleep deprivation can cause all manner of health issues and symptoms.  There are many studies (and we all know from personal experience) that sleep deprivation affects mental performance.  So it stands to reason that a restful night sleep is a good idea if you are trying to come up with an inspired idea.  But what about solving problems in your sleep? This one takes a bit of practice but is worth a try.  As described in Win Wengers book several songwriters (eg. Michael Jackson) have written songs by this method.  Next time you have a problem to solve or an idea to come up with, just before you go to sleep, make a conscious plan to solve it in your sleep and ask your subconscious mind to give you the answer. Then, wait for the magic to happen…    

Rinse and repeat

The more practice you get at noticing and developing the ideas that appear on the peripheries of your consciousness, the more easily inspired ideas will come to you.

For a free Inspiration Planner (featuring the above illustrations) sign up to the email list at chicbalance.com.   weeks.

 

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5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Worry About Making the Wrong Career Choice

By May 30, 2017 Blog, Career

 

  1. Your instincts will usually lead you in the right direction

If you are drawn to it in the first place, chances are it is at least a good place to start.

  1. You can change direction (which doesn’t necessarily mean the time was wasted)

Anything you do will build on your skills, experience and contacts in some way.

  1. You could create your own niche in the field

Many career fields have a huge range of  sub-speciality areas and even more potential areas which could be developed.  So if you find your dream job in the field doesn’t exist, just maybe, you could create it…

  1. Sometimes uncertainty is good

“Not knowing” what you want can open you up to amazing possibilities which you might not have seen if you were laser-focused on exactly where you were going

  1. You don’t actually have to choose just one thing

More and more people are having multiple jobs in their lifetimes or even simultaneously, because that’s what suits them.  Author Emilie Wapnick calls these people Multipotentialites  (you can find out more about multipotentialites on her website Puttylike, her book “How to be Everything” and her TED talk.

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Book Recommendation: Girl Code, by Cara Alwill Leyba

By May 16, 2017 Blog, Career, Making Dreams Come True

Cara Alwill Leyba is a Master Life Coach and author .  Her book Girl Code is an inspiring, kick-ass romp of a read full of empowering advice with a focus on celebrating the power of bonding with other women as a key ingredient in achieving happiness and success in life and work.

Girl Code outlines a great approach for driven women who have big plans; go for it, hustle, but its OK not to be perfect all the time…and its fun to add a little sparkle and glamour where-ever possible!

(I had the pleasure of meeting Cara recently her London networking meet. Cara is delightful in person and the event was everything she writes about; fabulous women getting together and making connections over sparkly champagne!)

 

 

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Setting the Barre at Achievable -How get around to exercising

By November 18, 2016 Balance, Blog, Health and Wellbeing

When time is tight it can incredibly busy to fit in regular exercise.  I love pilates and barre classes but with a little baby at home, going out for over an hour for a class was just too difficult. I bought work-out videos but after a week got bored of them and found it increasingly difficult to psych myself up to start a 40 minute workout very early in the morning (too tired after a night of broken sleep) or late at night (not advised as exercise just before bed keeps you awake!).  Then I found the “Ballet Barre Fitness & Pilates Workouts” App by Kira Elste.

 So convenient and do-able…

For the fraction of the price of a regular class you get a fantastic selection of 15-30 minute workouts.  No commute time, no fancy fashion-forward activewear required…and no excuses.  Anyone can find 15 minutes per day.   

So fun!

Kira is an enthusiastic, quirky and encouraging instructor and includes fun workouts such as “Blue Jean Baby” (leg workout), LBD Barre (arms, legs, core) and Tank-Top Arms!  She also has a section for “Healthy Treats” she recommends and a technique section in the App.

 The benefits

 I felt better the within 2 days of adding in a daily 15 minute workout.  Obviously too early to see any change in the body, but I felt more supple, my muscles felt more toned and I just felt better about everything.  It’s such a small amount of time to put in, but just goes to show, a little can go a long way, and a tiny workout that you can commit to regularly is better than a long workout you never get around to. 

 It grows with you

Because the workouts are so short, you can easily add on more workouts as you become stronger, and once fitting in a workout has become a habit.  And you can customise the muscle groups that you work on. 

 So, the answer to getting around to exercising (and other things)? Make it easy for yourself and aim for something easily achievable at first. In this case 15 minutes of exercise wherever you (and your smartphone) happen to be.  Once the habit is instilled, you can build on it.

 (ps: this is not a paid/sponsored post, I just really like the app!)

This review was first published as a guest post on www.nzgirl.co.nz

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How to Stay Balanced When You Have A Million Things to Do!

By October 30, 2016 Balance, Blog, Career, Organsation and Planning

Sometimes it seems like life just gets busier and busier.  Are you constantly rushing around day long? Have even hobbies started to feel like a drain on your time? Or are you thinking “hobbies, who has time for hobbies?”?  It might be time to pause and restore some balance to your life.  Limiting time spent on certain things and taking the time to look after yourself doesn’t necessarily mean you will get less done.  To the contrary, if you have a defined time to get tasks done in, and start out refreshed and enthusiastic rather than exhausted and deflated you may be much more productive!

Here are 13 tips for finding balance in a busy lifestyle.

 

  1. Set boundaries and goals to stay focussed on what matters

Is work or some other aspect of your life taking over a lot more time than you think it should?  Assess what you want to achieve in this area, what is needed to achieve that goal and what is extra.  Create a timetable to allow you limits the time spent but that will allow you to reach your goals.

  1. Do a little each day; something is better than nothing

Having just been through one of the busiest periods in my life, I found exercise really, really hard to fit in/be motivated enough to do.  I am now fitting in just 10-15 minutes of exercise per day.  But it has actually made a huge difference in how I feel and is something that I can commit to as there is no excuse for not finding 10 minutes in the day!

  1. Actually…aim to juggle rather than balance

I’m a firm believer that if you really want to do something, then you can find a way to fit it into your life…at some point.  But no one can do everything every day.  There may be some things you can only spend time on a couple of times a week.  There may be some things that you want to try for a certain period at some point in your life (eg. run a marathon) but may or may not want to continue indefinitely.

  1. Take refreshing breaks, for example

-getting up for a few minutes after every hour at your desk

-having a mid-week evening out

-taking holidays; A great piece of advice I was given when I started working was that the best time to start planning a holiday is as soon as you get back from a holiday.  That way you always have something to look forward to.

  1. Indulge in a few little treats each day such as:

listening to an uplifting podcast on your commute, having a bubble bath, a hot cup of tea while reading a good book, a luxurious piece of dark chocolate…whatever helps you feel relaxed, positive or energised

  1. Take care of your body:

-have a generally healthy diet with some occasional treats

-get enough sleep, and ideally have a regular sleep pattern

-get some exercise, a little regularly is better than none at all

  1. Take care of your mind and spirit

-regularly stimulate your mind with new skills and information, thought-provoking books movies and  conversation, travel and generally get out of your comfort zone from time to time

-regularly relax your mind: read or watch something relaxing, consider trying a new stress-release technique (meditation, prayer, mindfulness, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation etc.)

-indulge your creative side: cook, bake, draw, paint, write, make music, dance, whatever you like

  1. Take the time to look fabulous

Ever noticed how the way you dress and groom can affect the way you feel and behave? Wear something that makes you feel confident and together.

  1. Invest in quality time with those you care about

-talk, have fun with and relax with family and friends

  1. Consider regularly doing something to help someone else

It might just help you feel better/more balanced/in perspective too.

  1. It’s OK to go “all-out” for short, defined periods of time

We all go through periods in life where there is some sort of major deadline (such as an exam) and one thing can take over almost every waking minute.  That’s OK, just try to make sure there is a defined end to this crazily busy time and maybe plan something to look forward to when it’s over.

  1. Remember…things change

Life is dynamic, circumstances change, we change… Roll with the punches and regularly reassess how things are working.  Consider if your schedule needs to be tweaked or if something doesn’t fit your life anymore and needs to be let go to create room for new things.

Have a wonderful week!

 

*this article first appeared as a guest post on www.nzgirl.co.nz

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Sultana Bran Autumn Apple Crumble -week-night dessert

By October 21, 2016 Blog, Recipes
a quick and easy dessert for weeknights

I love throwing an elaborate dinner party or doing a batch of baking in the weekend when time allows, but  so often, life gets busy and food preparation needs to be quick and easy.  And at these times of stress its more important than ever to eat food that nourishes your body and soul.

We have been enjoying an abundance of fresh autumn apples and the last of the summer berries.  This recipe contains the goodness of fruit, a lashing of something creamy, and a crunchy crumble in caramelized honey.  If you cook and puree or mash the apples in advance, it then only takes 5 minutes to put together

 Ingredients (serves 3-4)

2 cups of apple puree (fresh apples peeled, chopped, boiled and mashed)

1 cup of Sultana Bran (or other bran flakes)

2 T butter

2T honey

A dollop of crème fraiche or greek yoghurt per person

Fresh berries to garnish

 

Instructions

1.      Slightly crush the Sultana Bran so that the pieces are about ¼ the size of a whole flake

2.      Put the Sultana Bran into a small pot and add the butter and stir on high heat

3.      Once the butter starts to melt, add the honey

4.      Continue stirring until the the mixture starts to clump, and looks glossy and crispy, then take it off the heat

5.      Put the apple puree into dessert bowls and top with the Sultana Bran crumble

6.      Create a contrast to the warm crumble by adding a dollop of crème fraiche or greek yoghurt and garnish with berries.

Bon appetite!

a quick and easy dessert for weeknights

*this post was published first on nzgirl.co.nz

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Turning Dreams into Reality –the Game Plan…

By July 30, 2016 Blog, Career, Making Dreams Come True, Organsation and Planning

Once you are clear on your goals, it’s time to make things happen!  Planning, organisation and regular reflection on how things are going can turn a lofty dream into an achievable goal.

Tips for turning a goal into reality:

  1. Use  the SMART approach (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound), to further define your goals.
  2. Make a Master Plan/Timeline

I like to make the master-plan/timeline pretty and pleasant/motivating to look at, including tick-boxes to check-off as I complete things.  I also place it somewhere I can see it and refer to it each day. There is something very satisfying about crossing or ticking things off as you go!

  1. Each day look the timeline and think about what you want to achieve for that day or week and make a list of things to do in the immediate future
  2. Each week , briefly reflect on how things are going and if anything needs to change
  3. Customise the timeline to the goal and the way you like to do things.

For example,   if there is not a definite deadline eg. the goal is to run a blog… the plan could be structured as follows…

 

dotstable

 

If there is a definite deadline, eg the goal is to pass an exam, then the master plan might be organized as below. It’s a good idea to build in contingency time.  Things often take longer than expected.  I always include a plan to “celebrate” after the deadline has passed.  It seems to help me maintain a positive mindset and remember what I am working towards!

 

flowertable

Good luck with your dream-making, planning and achieving.  If you decide to try any of these tips, do let me know you go in the comments below!

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Captivating Casares (and nearby localities)…

By July 11, 2016 Blog, Sparkle, Magic and Wonderment, Travel

When we planned our trip to Andalusia, in the south of Spain, we became intrigued by the idea of Casares, a fortified Arabian settlement of beautiful white-washed dwellings strategically nestled in the mountain-tops with a strong wall and sheer drops protecting the town.  Having hired a car with mobile Wifi, we were able to have a very free-flowing and spontaneous road-trip in Andalusia, deciding our route and plans as we went, booking accommodation online as we approached a town we wanted to spend the night in.

We planned to visit Casares as a day trip, because there appeared to be only one small inn in the town itself,  and Casares is close enough to many other towns.

So we decided to spend the night before in Sabinillas, at the Hotel Dona Luisa on the  beautiful Costa Del Sol. We rose early, eager to start the day.  After a leisurely breakfast, we walked out onto the beach and were greeted by a breath-taking sunrise, as the first rays of sunlight diffused orange and gold above the water. There was something very special about being up at the crack of dawn.  The prospect of the whole day, filled with promise stretched out before us.  A day with nothing to do but please ourselves.

sabilas jump for love-cropped

 

We bumped into some fellow tourists who suggested that a trip to nearby Castellar de la Frontera would be well worth the time.   It was a beautiful day so we took the suggested detour through the sun-drenched, mountainous landscape and found ourselves exploring a delightful little town.  There were charming winding cobblestone streets where ceramic vendors displayed their wares and weathered stone buildings reaching up towards a brilliantly blue sky.

castella1-watermarkedcastella2-watermark

castella4-watermarkcastella3-watermark

By now it was lunchtime and there didn’t appear to be many places to stop for a meal in this beautiful but isolated spot.  Actually just one tiny pub as far as we could tell…

So we went in.  There were very few tables and no one inside except one young bartender.  We resigned ourselves to the prospect of a simple and probably not very tasty lunch and asked for a few tapas.  Next thing we knew, our host brought out plate after plate of mouth-watering dishes, made with seemingly the simplest fresh ingredients but assembled and seasoned with such flair as to be unbelievably delicious.  The showstopper was the tastiest chorizo sausage which he dramatically set aflame before us!  We agreed that somehow the adventure of stumbling upon this gem of an eatery in the most unexpected spot made it one of the best and most special meals we had ever had.

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We expressed our appreciation as best we could in broken Spanish and finally headed to Casares.  The numerous white buildings clustered like gems in the mountains were everything we had hoped to see as we approached.  As we took a closer look on foot we saw that the town was immaculately kept.  Even the cemetary was beautiful.  We wandered up towards the highest point and past some castle ruins and  a church.

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By now, the sun was setting and we had found the perfect spot to admire the town.  From our vantage point above the village we heard the strains of habitation at dusk from below.  The voices and foot-steps of children playing in the streets, dogs barking, the breeze in the trees, birds, the occasional motorbike winding through the streets and the church bells ringing…

Watching the town from a distance, there was a stillness in the air, and we all fell silent, deep in our own thoughts.   I thought about how it was almost as if we had lived the best parts of a lifetime in one day.  From when the day was young and full of possibility at dawn, to a care-free day filled with adventures, spontenaeity, surprise and wonderful food shared in good company in amazing surroundings.  Then the end of the day.  The white buildings glowed in the last rays of the sun, as memories of this incredible day continue to glow and bring a smile to our faces well after the trip has ended.

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Three Fun Ways To Support Your Favourite Causes

By March 1, 2016 Blog, Making a Diffference

It can be overwhelming reading or watching news stories sometimes.  The scale of some of the problems can make us want to turn away and forget, thinking nothing we can do could make a difference.

Of course, this is not the case, we know that every little bit helps.  But what if you want to do more than make a donation but are not in a situation to go and help on the ground, or don’t have the time to organize a major fundraiser?

Here are three fab ways to celebrate and appreciate what we have with people we appreciate, while helping those who are not so lucky!

In the course of a single morning, afternoon or evening you can not only make a contribution yourself but motivate others in a positive way to do the same!

  1. Host a charity party

A small group rather than a large function may be more manageable if you don’t have a lot of time.  I found a great article by Paula Biggs for Frog Prince Paperie (http://frogprincepaperie.com/2014/11/how-to-host-a-charity-party-at-home.html) with loads of tips on how to hold a successful charity party.

The type of party could be related to the type of charity you are collecting for, eg:

-breakfast party: to collect for school breakfasts for underprivileged children

-party themed to a particular country you want to collect money for

-international food and dress-up potluck party: to support Unicef or World Vision etc…

  1. Do something unusual online to raise money and see if it goes viral!

The Ice Bucket Challenge and No-Make-up Selfies are successful because they are invoke a sense of positivity and fun.  Also there is something nice about being part of something with lots of other people.  It’s exciting to be part of something big and that’s hot at the time because you get the sense that great things will happen…

  1. If you are into crafts, could have a craft circle to make things to send eg. to “Dress a Girl”.

Please share any other ideas you may have to help those in need, inspire others to do the same and spread some positivity in the process!

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Live The Dreams –that’s right, plural…

By February 21, 2016 Blog, Career, Making Dreams Come True

Some people might be brilliant at and passionate about one thing only, others of us need to pursue several different interests to feel balanced and complete.

“Can I pursue more than one “serious” dream?”

Yes! Though you might have to pick one or at most 2 at a time to really concentrate on and become really good at. (No one wants to be a jack of all trades but master of none!).

Make a Plan to Concentrate on One or Two Things at a Time

You don’t have to pursue every goal you have for your life at the same time…For example if you want to play a sport professionally, you probably need to start as early as possible. If you want to write a book, that can potentially wait until later in life. Often, the skills you develop in one area can give you a unique edge in another and you can use this to your advantage (eg. you could write a sports book or write about something which helped you succeed in sport as well as other areas of life). Just because you are concentrating on one thing doesn’t mean you can’t have other things on the boil in the background. For example you may spend all day training for a sports competition but you might find it do-able, even enjoyable to spend an hour in the evening writing your book.

You may have to adapt some goals, particularly if they are further down on your list of dreams to pursue

If something you want does not seem realistic, consider what it is about that thing that you actually love and decide if you can achieve that another way. For example one particular dream I had as a little girl was to be a ballerina. As I grew into my teens, I knew this was not going to be possible if I also wanted to pursue a career as a scientist or doctor. So I took up a number of other forms of dance which required less rigorous and ongoing training, and for a time was able to fit in dancing gigs between other commitments. I still dance but have now moved on to focus on writing/blogging as you can see!

So there may be no need to choose between the things that you love. If you plan it right, you may just be able to have your cakes and eat them too!

sandakan high tea

 

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How Decide to Which Dreams to Pursue…

By January 17, 2016 Blog, Career, Making Dreams Come True

Of course no one else can tell you what you should be doing with your life.  Only you can decide that.  Also, no one single approach is going to suit everyone. Some people don’t mind jumping in with both feet and quitting their day job to pursue their dream, trusting that everything will work out. That is fantastic and I really believe that if you really want something, you absolutely should pursue it. But I myself like to be reasonably sure of financial stability and some chance of success before putting in a lot of time and resources. So here is my slightly risk-adverse take on making major, potentially life-changing decisions….

“What should I do with my life?!” 

Remember daydreaming about what you might “be” when you grew up?

I have one amazing friend who, as a child,  said she was going to be a scientist (and has written proof of this!), and then proceeded to do exactly that.  But we don’t all have such foresight! I myself had a list of any number of things, which would change from week to week depending on how I felt at the time.  I have never been able to map out my career years in advance with any certainty, but have taken up opportunities as they arose.  I have no regrets about where I am now and the path I have taken to get here.  So I guess, the point I am making is that:

  1. It’s OK not to know exactly where you want to be in 10 years. There is no harm planning, of course, but be prepared to adapt and change your plans. That way, you will be open to opportunities that might lead you to something even better.
  2. Do have an idea of what sort of thing you might want to do and start there.

I generally set off in the general direction I want to go, and then make more specific decisions and take up various opportunities as they arise.

Say you are interested in science but you are not sure which field.  So at university you try papers in botany, biochemistry, biology and psychology.  You develop a particular interest in one of these areas, start a project with a professor you admire and thus find your way into that field.

 

What If I think I want to do something but am not sure?”

Thinking in terms of these questions usually helps me to clarify if I am really prepared to put in the effort to make something happen.

  1. Is this something I am really prepared to work hard for?
  2. Would my life feel incomplete if I didn’t do this?
  3. What is the chance that I might realise it’s not what I want after all?
  4. If I tried but couldn’t achieve the goal, what would I lose?
  5. Would having tried give me the closure to move onto something else?
  6. Is quitting an option if it doesn’t seem to be working out? If so, how will I decide when to stop?

 

“ Can I really make this happen?”

There is no fool-proof way to eliminate the risk that your time, efforts and other resources might not pay off, but you could consider the following:

  1. Honest self-appraisal. We might be wrong about ourselves of course, so don’t stop there, but it’s the obvious place to start!  Gather all the information you can about what it might take to succeed and then consider your abilities.
  1. Consider the opinion of a trusted family member or friend.  Take their opinion into consideration, but remember those close to us may have  pre-conceived ideas about what we can or can’t do, so this is only one consideration.
  2. Consider getting an opinion from a professional in the field if applicable/possible
  3. If possible try to get some experience in the area you are interested in or take a course to see if you like it and might be good at it.

 

Just for fun, if you are considering pursuing a new path, try this!

Copy, print and fill out the table below…..

 

whichdreamstable

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Why you should R-E-A-C-H for your dreams

By January 7, 2016 Blog, Career, Making Dreams Come True

Why should you reach for your dreams?

So that you can be fulfilled and happy right? And because you almost certainly can make at least some of your dreams come true.

The more pertinent question is:

“Why shouldn’t you?” (What is stopping you?):

Lack of funds? Time? Too much effort? Don’t think you have what it takes? Commitments to others? Lack of opportunity?

Ok, not every dream anyone ever thought of is going to be realistic. But you owe it to yourself to at least go through the process of figuring out what will really make you happy (if you don’t already know), exploring what it would take to happen, and if you are prepared to do what it takes.

Going this process, if nothing else, will at least allow you some closure if you decide not to pursue a given path. At best, it will start you on the path to fulfilling your wildest dreams!

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How to Use Memories as Inspiration to Inject Magic, Wonderment and Sparkle into Everyday Life

By January 4, 2016 Blog, Sparkle, Magic and Wonderment

Remember how you felt on Christmas morning as a child, that frisson of excitement, of magic hanging in the air after weeks of anticipation? Or what about the sparks that flew when you started dating someone special, when you woke every morning unable to think of anything but when you would speak to or see that person next, your impatience to see how the relationship would unfold?

If you are anything like me, these moments of exhilarating happiness and excitement still happen as an adult but became fewer and further between compared with when I was a child. I wondered why, and what I could do to inject more magic and sparkle back into life. So I decided to explore some more examples of magic-infused memories to figure out what made them so special.

Some of my magical memories:

1. Trip to Carcasssonne (see my post from earlier today)

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2. Aeroplane Trips

As a child, whenever we had an overseas trip planned, my sisters and I would be so excited about going on the aeroplane. More excited about the trip there than the holiday itself really…We loved having our own seats with our own light switch and music channels we could control ourselves (back then in the 80s there was just one large movie screen at the front of the cabin which we would watch through the gaps between the seats, never dreaming of the luxury of having a library of movies to choose from like we have today!).  We loved the cosiness of the aeroplane cabin with the soothing white-noise of the airplane propellers when the lights were dimmed.  We would plan what games we would take with us .to play and dream of eating food out of little boxes in a tray and even practice “aeroplane eating” when we played make-believe.  (Having since experienced economy-class aeroplane food as an adult I can’t really explain to you or myself why we had that particular fascination…).  I even loved airports, and still do.  To me, international airports all over the world all have the same air of excitement.  A tantalising port to exotic destinations soon to be reached.

3. Getting up early for road trips

As a child, we would regularly get up in the early hours when it was still dark to start a long trip to visit my aunt and cousins. I loved spending time with my cousins, but the trip itself was exciting. As with overseas plane flights, it was the start of an exciting journey, with the thought of the whole trip stretching out in front of you. But there was also a definite novelty associated with being awake and having somewhere to go at a time of day when I would normally not be allowed up. There was a certain magic in the night air, the crisp coolness of it, the blanket of darkness just beyond the window, sprinkled with the twinkling lights of stars and street lamps which made the interior of the car all the cosier. Then of course there was the magic of a beautiful sunrise….I enjoyed sharing these experiences with my parents and later my siblings.

4. A special dinner after a busy day at work

I remember, one day I had a special romantic dinner at a restaurant to look forward to for the evening. I had quite a busy work day to get through beforehand, but having somewhere special to go afterwards infused the whole day with excitement. At the end of the day I was able to pack up and mentally and physically, close the door on work and enthusiastically start the next exciting part of my day.

5. Summer holidays after exams

I was something of a geek at high school and university… I studied pretty hard, and the end of year exams were associated with weeks of discipline, sacrifice, hard work, stress and fatigue. So handing in that last exam paper for the year and stepping out into the sunshine came with a certain euphoria (probably heightened by the delirium of sleep deprivation!). The moment was particularly exhilarating if I knew I had “aced” the exam, but even when I didn’t feel so great about it, there was a certain relief in knowing it was all over and I could look forward to starting the summer holidays.

6. An exciting new project

There is nothing like a new project you are passionate about to fill you with enthusiasm and excitement. For me right now, that is this blog! I don’t know where this will lead, if anyone will read it, or like it, or if I will still be writing it in a year. But I do know that I have always wanted to write for others as well as myself since I was a child. I am writing about things I am passionate about, am excited to share my thoughts with you, and am dreaming about the possibilities of what I will explore and where this might go.

7. Christmas…this deserves a post of its own! I will come back to this one next December…

 

So in considering what  made these childhood and adult memories so magical, I noticed the following:

a) All have an element of anticipation. Of looking forward to something that promises to be exciting and delightful for a reasonably long period of time. Anticipation of an exotic holiday, of a whole day filled with wonderful possibilities, of a whole evening out in a lovely restaurant, of the whole of the summer holidays, of all the possibilities and potential for success of a new project, of finding wonderful and delightful things when setting out to explore an exciting new place.I have decided anticipation at the beginning of something nice is possibly the best part of a pleasurable experience. When the entire experience is still in store, but yet tantilisingly close. The magical memory is complete when the things we look forward to are every bit as amazing as we imagined or if we are lucky even better!

b) Novelty

Being awake at an unusual time (for a nice reason!), seeing a new place, trying new food, doing something different –the novelty of these elements helped to add an extra sparkle to make the experience special. Trying something different is such a refreshing change to everyday life which can get a little mundane sometimes.

c) Contrast

Pleasurable experiences are heightened by contrast. The contrast of having something like a busy work day or exams and then being to suddenly switch into celebration/holiday mode, letting the pressures of whatever else there is to worry about in life lift away, if only for that period of time.

d) An interesting challenge

It is great to have hobbies you enjoy, and if you are lucky a job you love. The start of a new project you are passionate about is so exciting, a time filled with creativity, purpose and potential.

e) Shared experience

All of these experiences involve sharing moments with others, whether with loved ones, fellow students or you, my readers! This is not to say you can’t have magical moments on your own (I have had quite a few). But having someone to share the experience with,  whether at the time or by telling them about it afterwards often seems to heighten the experience.

Try this!

  1. List at least 5 memories of times that felt magical and exciting. Go on, take a stroll down memory lane and indulge in reliving some of your most wonderfully delightful memories
  2. For each memory, write down what you think made it so wonderful
  3. Use those reasons to inspire a list of ways you can inject more magic and wonderment into your life now!
  4. Think about how you can add anticipation, novelty and passion into your life and consider how you might share the experience with others.

À demain!

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A Magical trip to Carcassonne, France

By January 4, 2016 Blog, French Inspired, Sparkle, Magic and Wonderment, Travel

I have been lucky enough to have had many magical moments on overseas holidays.  However some stand out in my memories more than others.  Carcassonne is a charming hilltop town in the Languedoc-Rousillon region of Southern France, surrounded by a medieval fortress.  We were a travelling party of 5 and had hired a car to take a road trip, driving from town to town.  We loved seeing the landscape of gently rolling hills and green countryside as we travelled.  As we were travelling in a car we were able to stop to pick poppies in a field which we had never seen growing wild before and take lots of photos and practice our French on the locals!

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We stayed in a little hotel just outside the city walls of Carcasonne and had a breath-taking view of the medieval town, which certainly seemed take on a magical quality as it lit up at dusk (see above).  Immediately we began talking about how this conjured up romanticised visions of princesses and knights, and of the medieval citizens scurrying behind the safety of the city walls and closing the gates to protect the town…

It was a chilly, grey and drizzly evening, but already enchanted by this charming town, we were completely un-deterred and we put on our winter coats. armed ourselves with umbrellas and set off walking into the town.  The town shops were still open, but the wet cobblestone streets were empty and there were no other tourists to be seen.  It was as if we had the town to ourselves.  We ducked into a cosily lit sweet shop and spent a happy 20 minutes marvelling over the variety of and selecting some to sample before braving the rain again.

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We wandered around, and came across, among other sights, a square, a beautiful church with stained glass windows lit up by candles,   a well, and a poster exalting the local dish, Cassoulet!

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By now the light was fading and we looked for somewhere to have dinner.  We were welcomed by the owner of a charming country pub and climbed the stone stairs to the restaurant on the upper floor.  The room was delightfully warm and lit by candles and a crackling fire.  The waiter was hospitable, charming and of course knowledgeable about wine.  We did order the famed cassoulet, a provincial dish of duck leg, sausage and haricot beans cooked in a clay pot.  The warm and hearty meal was the perfect end to a magical fairy tale of a day.

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