The following are ten habits that I follow religiously to help me stay sane in a world which can at times feel quite insane.
1. Read a book.
By preference, I read proper books – tangible, tactile books, which you can feel, smell, fold the corners down, with creased spines and a history of fingers and crumbs from the bottom of a bag. It doesn’t matter what kind of book you enjoy – devour them all – education, pleasure, fact or fiction – losing yourself in words that someone has taken the time and energy to transmute from their mind onto paper is a really powerful activity.
2. Turn off the news.
Now this is such a no brainer. I was about to explain what is currently going on in the news as part of my explanation for this BUT no explanation is needed, because at any time there is rubbish going on. And it is not just the political skirmishes that can be draining. Global disasters can extract energy and joy even though it may not directly affect your life. I am not advocating total ignorance – rather, be conscious of allowing events from 1000s of kilometres away, and over which you have absolutely no control, to drain away the energy from your own life on a day to day basis.
3. Be ruthless in the company you keep.
This is one that business owners need to be particularly conscious of, especially if you are new to breaking into the entrepreneurial world and have a lot of overly critical nay sayers surrounding you. I split those I know into two distinct camps – the radiators and the drains. Keep away from the drains, because they drain you of energy and joy. You can still have them in your circle (they may be family members, and their draining may come from a place of love!). Just control the flow of information and the influence they try to wield.
Embrace the radiators. They want nothing but the best for you. They will be your cheer leaders during the most difficult of times. They will be inspired and motivated by your excitement and passion. They won’t try to derail you with negativity and pessimism.
4. Stop hanging onto the past.
Do not let your past dictate your present, or your potential. You have a choice to make. You can either leave the door of your past wide open and allow the emotions and events of past traumas to pollute the rivers of your mind. OR you can acknowledge them once and for all, and then close the door on them. HOW you think, is going to be dictating your future, not WHAT you think. So begin to think in a way that is empowering, constructive, motivating, inspiring. You want to use the past to galvanize you towards creating an awesome future, not keep dragging you back into its black mists.
5. Don’t turn bad habits into addictions.
There is a real trend among the ‘powers that be’ to turn compulsive, bad behaviours into ‘addictions’ – whether that is smoking, drinking, shopping (online and real life), gaming, gambling, eating cake…
The problem is, the moment you call it an ‘addiction’, it disempowers you. It puts the focus on the activity, rather than you. So any attempts to stop the addiction is focussed on the activity itself, rather than building you up as an individual. You turn to compulsive behaviours for various reasons – you’re looking for an escape, a bit of instant gratification, it makes you feel momentarily good and sedated so you don’t have to tolerate the mess that’s going on around you, it gives you a place to hide behind, it might even make you feel more in control (an illusion). You can argue that the pleasure hormones it releases are the addictive element, but these pleasure hormones are available in so many different areas of our lives that they don’t have to be attributed to destructive behaviours.
Simply by making the CHOICE that any compulsive behaviour is merely a habit that you have to change, will make the process seem less of a mountain. Once you have made that choice, then understanding my next point (number 6) will cement this that much further.
6. Make your imagination work in your favour.
How often do we ‘fear the worst but hope for the best’. It’s a bit like Pascal’s Wager – we’re covering all eventualities. It makes us feel a little bit more in control of what could be, because if the worst came, we need to be prepared for it because the worst is something we fear the most. If we’re prepared at least it won’t feel quite so bad. The trouble is, this immediately puts us into the mindset of loss, scarcity, doubt, failure. And if you think Pink Elephants, then pink elephants will appear on every corner.
Your imagination is a powerful player when it comes to building your own confidence in your ability to cope with any situation, come what may. You probably don’t even realise that you’ve been living in fear all this time. The trouble is, a fearful imagination holds you back. Can you imagine being tethered to this great big pink elephant, desperate to move forward, but unable to shift it even an inch.
Instead, untether yourself, and imagine yourself instead driving confidently, competently, decisively, in a continuously forward motion, towards the goals you have set yourself. You can leave the pink elephant in the care of the drains in your life – he’ll be fine!!
7. Decide how you want you day to be the moment you wake up.
Just decide. No negotiation. No ‘how do I feel this morning?’. Just decide, once and for all, that today is going to be a GREAT day for moving one more day towards achieving your goals.
One of my clients recently asked me why her teenage daughter acts so catastrophically, as though the world is oh so totally against her, when the reality is she has an extremely comfortable and in many ways privileged life.
My answer to this and similar questions is always based initially on perspective. A teenager’s world tends to be quite small. She has her circle of school friends, and whatever online world she dips into. Her reactions are going to be, comparatively, larger than the space she currently inhabits. The wider your world, the more perspective you have on what goes on in it.
The trouble is, when you get caught up in the minutiae of building and running a business, juggling home and work commitments, balancing relationships, you can get bogged down and all to easily lose this perspective. When I recognise myself getting to this point, I always make a point of stepping back two or three paces (or more if necessary), taking a deep breath, and readjusting my focus.
9. Switch off social media
We are all guilty of spending far too much time on social media. My excuse is that I use it all the time for my business. But that’s not to say that I should still be endlessly scrolling through my various feeds (looking for inpsiration is the story that I tell myself!)
But in fact that inspiration should come from your outside world. Social media is a fabulous tool for maintaining connections. But it should be used in conjunction with the wider world, and by wider world, I mean the world that can be physically reached and touched by you. So combine that social media with getting out into society, into the community, making real, tangible connections with real tangible people. It will make your social media connections that much more viable in the long run.
10. Smell the roses.
Stop and listen to the sound of the sea, or the birds in the trees, or the wind through the streets, or the rain on the windows…
So much of the world around us gets lost in our constant hustle and grind of the working day (and if you run your own business, and/or have a family that working day goes well into the evening).
So it is essential to make sure that every couple of hours or so you stop everything you are doing, simply look up, and be more aware of what is going on in the world around you.
I guess you could call this mindfulness. It’s not something I have studied in depth. But in this day and age we do need to remind ourselves how feeling the ground beneath your feet every now and again will help to keep you grounded and sane.