Design for Life

Trees Photo: Sakura Trees by Petr Kratochvil


It’s been another hot summer’s day. Walking along a tree-lined pathway, it occurred to me that in nature, things effortlessly follow their own blueprint. I’m sure that trees don’t doubt their ability to grow tall and strong. A stalk of grass probably doesn’t compare itself to a neighbour.

Do we have our own “Design”? I think if we’re guided by our intuition, we know when something feels right. But we don’t have to follow it, and often Life gets in the way to drown out our inner voice.

We have the ability to rewrite our plans, over and over – which can be a blessing or a curse. Having the freedom to create our own life, means that if the doubts creep in, we can end up settling for less than our best. 

It’s an obvious statement, but Life is all about Creation. I used to believe that we have to take whatever Life throws at us. I now see that we actively co-create our experience together with Life. We are deeply involved in the process, every second of every day. Whether we’re aware of it or not.

Surely, we have a responsibility to ourselves to find what lights us up, and pursue it, to the extent that we can. Even if it remains a hobby, rather than a career. But more than that, if we lift ourselves up, we pass the benefits on to those around us, and subconsciously give them permission to do the same.

So, you know what to do… Find your talent. And shine your light.

Make a Choice!


Photo: Everyone has a Choice by George Hodan

We are our choices” Jean-Paul Sartre

Life seems very difficult, when so much of it appears to be beyond our control. Turn on the News and you see death, disaster and mayhem on a daily basis. Scary stuff. And there’s nothing we can do about it! Or is there?

There are three things that are always under our control, although we often forget it: our thoughts, feelings and actions. We always have a choice.

Of course we live in the real world, and sometimes compromises have to be made. And occasionally the best option is the “least worst” one. But you can always look for temporary solutions, while you move through a situation. You don’t have to get there in one leap.

Break your problem into smaller manageable chunks. First of all, clearly define your goal. What is your desired outcome? If you can’t see the whole path to the end result, develop a strategy to get you closer to where you want to be.

For instance, you may not like your job, but quitting it now may not be your best option:

  1. Firstly, make your current job more bearable. Look for the positives. Think what you’d miss if the job was to end tomorrow.
  2. Do your job better! You may not like your job, but you can like how you do it. There is satisfaction in doing the best you can.
  3. Can you get retrained? Evening classes may offer courses that may help you to find alternative employment.
  4. See your current job as a stepping-stone that allows you to develop the skills you need to achieve your desired goal.
  5. What are you passionate about? Almost any hobby can be turned into a business. The Internet has created a global market place. Someone, somewhere will appreciate your skills and knowledge. Start in a small, affordable way in your spare time.

This process can be used for any issue we experience. By staying solution-focused we allow ourselves access to our inner creativity. Instead of reacting to circumstances, far better to be proactive and make our own choices.

Placebo or Nocebo?


Photo: Medical Pills by Vera Kratochvil

Placebo (Latin: “I will please”) Nocebo (Latin: “I will harm”)

Most people are familiar with the “Placebo Effect”, positive health benefits brought about purely by a person’s belief in the healing effects of their medication. A placebo, or “sugar pill” contains only an inert substance that has no independent healing properties.

It is purely the person’s belief in the medication, often coupled with the reassurance of a trusted medical professional, that kick-starts the healing process.

The effects of this process are so significant that it is commonly factored into the testing of new drugs, before they are released onto the market.

Less well known is the “Nocebo Effect”, where people receiving a placebo report negative effects – worsening of their symptoms. This is not through any chemical side effects, but purely through their belief that the tablet will not be effective in treating their condition.

The evidence shows that the key to our physical wellbeing lies with our mental attitude, brought about by our thoughts and feelings. If we don’t direct our thoughts, they may drift between positive and negative, or be predominantly one or the other.

We can choose our thoughts by practice and repetition. No matter what our current circumstances, the answer lies within us.

Which effect do you choose to nurture: placebo or nocebo?

Piece of the Action or Peace of Mind


Photo: Safe Harbour by Tamara Ward

Zig Ziglar: ”If standard of living is your major objective, quality of life almost never improves, but if quality of life is your number one objective, your standard of living almost always improves.”

What is it that you focus on the most? If you’re not happy with your current circumstances, it makes sense to set goals to improve them. You have to start from where you are, but where should your emphasis go?

It’s tempting to focus on the money. Many of us have done it at one time or another. I know I have. “If only I had more money…” “When I get more money…” “If I had the money that they have…”

But really, is the money an end result, or just a means to an end? We need money to live in a material world, no question. But basically we want peace of mind. Happiness. Maybe having a big house and new car will give you lasting happiness, and maybe it won’t. But doesn’t it make sense to go directly for the end result?

If you want happiness, cut out the middleman and go for it. Focus on it now, plan for it and take some small action towards it. What really inspires you? What would you do if the money was already taken care of? If you can’t find the time and effort to practice being happy now, how will you do it when you’ve got all the “things”, and you’re still chasing happiness?

Don’t forget to appreciate the good things you already have. It’s sometimes easy to forget, when you get caught up thinking about the future. It may be a cliché, but there are so many things that happiness can’t buy. If your focus is happiness, you’re unlikely to have many of the hang-ups about money that stop you getting it in the first place.

Relax and enjoy the good things in your life now. Then get started on being really happy.

Sorry, Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work


Photo: Depression by George Hodan

Study after study has shown that Positive Thinking doesn’t improve your results. In fact, in many cases it has a negative effect on your outcomes. You can visualize every day, think positively about your life and still be in a worse place than people who don’t.

Why is that? Because many of the people who visualize, and think positively believe that’s all they have to do!

Positive Thinking on its own doesn’t work – because you have to take action to get the right results. Ideally, the “right” sort of action, inspired action. But any action is better than none. Your thoughts are the starting point, but we live in a physical world. Thoughts alone won’t get you there. You have to move your feet. It’s no good buying a new Ferrari if you don’t fuel it up. You don’t have to change the world, but you can make changes to yourself.

Working with thoughts and actions in tandem is where you get the best results. Lot’s of people work hard every day, and have little to show for it. So you need to take time to focus and plan your outcomes and goals. If you don’t know what you really want, how will you know if you get there?

This is where positive thinking and visualizing kick in. You have to practice them regularly because their effects are short lived. But so is cleaning your teeth, and you probably do that twice a day. It’s still a useful activity!

A problem can be, the more time you spend visualizing, the more you notice the difference between your current reality and where you want to be. But if you mix in short term goals, you can see the progress you are making towards them. You can even add goals you have achieved on the list, to remind yourself of your successes.

So make Positive Thinking part of your lifestyle – but don’t forget to take Positive Action!