Monthly Archives: June 2017

The bright side of darkness.

I wonder how often you stop to think that you do usually have a choice about the way you react to the events around you?

I heard from friends that the landlord of the flat they’ve happily rented for eight years needs them to move on.

He has good reasons, which they understand.

What’s interesting to me, though, is the way they’ve chosen to see this as a positive event.

Instead of thinking about the inevitable hassles heading their way, they’re looking at it as on opportunity to find somewhere new, with fresh possibilities.

You might just have a whole day today when not a single thing goes wrong, in which case congratulations


But in the real world, things aren’t often like this.

You definitely do have the option to react to problems in the manner you choose, however.

So how about this?

How about experimenting today by looking for the positive side to life’s little snarl-ups?

Of course there won’t always be one.

But isn’t it worth at least looking?

Different people, different perspectives.

The other morning I talked through a business situation with a friend who knows me well, but who wasn’t all that familiar with the project in question.

And it struck me how very useful it can be to get some fresh insight into your own thinking.

I think we all tend to confide in the same, probably small, group of people – which can mean we tend to get the same views most of the time.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have people around you who know the full story.

But it can also be incredibly helpful to get someone else’s take on things.

To beat procrastination, beat the clock.

I spent an hour thinking about what I was going to write today, and got nowhere.

Then I looked at the clock and realised that if I didn’t get it sorted out, and quickly, I wasn’t going to eat.

Suddenly it was all done, in about ten minutes.

If you’re tired or if you’re feeling a bit down, little tasks can take forever.

So a useful strategy (which I forgot yesterday) can be to give yourself an artificial deadline.

Say to yourself ‘I’m going to have done X by 9 o’clock’.

In fact I sometimes use the countdown timer on my phone for this very reason.

In advertising I was often racing against the clock to meet a deadline.

So if you’re struggling to get something done and it just isn’t happening, set a deadline of your own.

There. That’s better. I got it done, and ate some lunch too.

Getting the right type of advice.

There’s a curious thing that happens when you’re feeling low.

Some (no doubt well-meaning) people will try to impose their solutions on you.

‘You should do X.’

‘Do Y.’

‘Why don’t you try Z?’

And of course these are the last things you’re going to do.

In fact if someone suggests Z, you’re more likely to think about doing A, through sheer cantankerousness.

But it’s weird.

If you’re anything like me, there’s a part of you that is actually screaming out for someone, somewhere to tell you what to do, at the very same time that you’re actively ignoring everyone’s ‘advice’.

I think the solution, if you can possibly pull it off, is to find a friend who gives advice rather than ‘advice’.

Someone who’s in tune with you.

Someone who can see things through your temporarily blurred eyes.

Someone, perhaps, whose elegant solution is to persuade you to sit down, have a cup of tea, and return to the thing that’s bugging you tomorrow.

Because problems sometimes look smaller from a distance.

And a good friend can help you understand this, when you’ve temporarily forgotten.

Chekhov, over a pint.

In my many years of going to the pub, I can honestly say that I’d never had a conversation about the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov there before.

But the absence was redressed, some time ago now, in an over-a-pint conversation with my friend David (the psychologist).

He’d been teaching his degree students about stress, and the gist of his lecture was, as you may well know, that it’s life’s daily hassles that generally lead to the most stress, rather than big life-changing issues.

The daily hassles become cumulative (they stand on one another’s shoulders to gradually overpower you) and, one after the other, they become amplified (they start off seeming inconsequential, but gradually assume more and more importance).

The trick, if there is one, is probably to be aware of the phenomenon, so you’re aware of incoming hassles.

But what about old Chekhov? Well as a man with a way with words, he summed it all up very nicely:

‘Any idiot can face a crisis, it is this day-to-day living that wears you out.’

For a man born 157 years ago, he had remarkable foresight.

(That’s Anton, not David.)

We are not cows.

Cows have an excuse for it.

Rumination, that is.

Although it’s popularly said that cattle have more than one stomach, the truth is that they do have just the one, albeit with four compartments.

Their digestive process is something we won’t go into because it may well be your breakfast-time.

Suffice it to say, though, that a cow is an example of a ruminant, and the word ruminant comes from the Latin ruminare, which means to ‘chew over again’.

You, on the other hand, have a different kind of stomach.

Basically food goes down the hatch just the once.

Humans don’t ‘chew the cud’.

But we do sometimes ruminate in the other sense of the word.

The kind the dictionary calls ‘negative cyclic thinking; persistent and recurrent worrying or brooding’.

Although it’s an easy trap to fall in to, rumination when your mood is low seldom does you good.

The kind of thinking which just goes round and round usually doesn’t get you anywhere.

But being conscious of it is a good first step.

So if you catch yourself ruminating, do your damnedest to send the notion packing.

Unless, of course, you’re a cow.

Looking back on today, from 2022.

If today was actually June 2nd, 2022, what do you think you might regret not having done five years previously?

Are there things you could have changed? Places you might have gone? Things you’d have liked to say?

Guess what? You have the power to do all those things today.

So don’t build up regrets for tomorrow.

You may not be able to change the world, but why not try and do just one thing today that could come back to delight you in five years’ time.

The future is closer than you think.