Don’t Just Survive, Thrive

thrive

Recently I hit a wall. I got into an end of year slump because I was tired and ready to give up. I lost all passion and motivation, and for one week, I was stagnant. Life was one big “meh” and I didn’t know how to get out of it. I condensed how I felt into a few words, which I tweeted; “Surviving, not thriving.” I was doing everything I needed to do to get through the day, but nothing more. Work, eat, sleep. No exercise, no God time, no writing. I had no emotion, just a lackluster, monotonous existence.

The truth is that it wasn’t the first time I’ve felt that way and it won’t be the last. Life can’t always be easy, sometimes it’s really freakin’ tough and that’s okay. But who wants to just survive? Life wasn’t made to be a hazy string of events and we weren’t created to work in autopilot. If we’re just surviving then we aren’t really living, and that alone is a tragedy.

As human beings, we are made to evolve and advance. We are meant to love, laugh and live in the beautiful moments to appreciate them. Our character was designed to grow, stretch and expand. We were created to thrive. And the good news is that we can do that in whatever we are doing, whatever season we are in. Even when our circumstances are less than ideal, we can still thrive.

If our soil is bad, we eventually need to change it because it’s impossible to flourish in unhealthy soil. But sometimes that isn’t immediately possible which is where attitude comes in. I’m currently not in good soil and for a while I got angry about it. I behaved like an entitled and ungrateful brat, and I wilted fast. As soon as I chose to thrive in spite of my environment, it all changed.

These are my practical tips on how to thrive in our everyday life, not just survive:

Be good to yourself – Eat well, exercise and sleep. This is a big one! Some of our greatest issues are so easily fixed with treating our bodies right. Our mind and behaviours are more affected by what we eat than we realise. Feeling lethargic? Cut down on the carbs. Anxious? Drink less caffeine. Oh, and I’m learning first hand that 7-8 hours sleep every night will work wonders.

Selective to be effective – We can’t do it all. Personally, I want to take up all the hobbies in the world and see all of my friends every week. But I just cannot do it. Zone your time, talents and efforts into a few specific areas and go for it. Give it your all. Be excellent at a few things rather than average at many. You are only human and only have so much capacity, so use that to your advantage. And also being a good friend means having fewer but more quality friends. If you’re all over the place most of the time, it may be time to make some cuts.

Connect – I cannot emphasise quite how important community is. Surround yourself with people who uplift, support and love you. As people, we need this more than we realise. Share your life with friends and family that you trust and ask them for help when you need it. There’s so much freedom in vulnerability.

Choose to be passionate – about your job, your hobbies, your dreams, your family, your church, your community, your life! If you follow me on Twitter, then you know I am crazy in love with my #swlfamily (join us!). I am passionate about this cause and these people. It keeps me going. If your day job isn’t your passion, then pick something or a group of people that need support. It isn’t hard because the need is everywhere. Have passions and be passionate!

Get organised – This is really hard for some people. I may be scatty but I am generally quite organised, and this makes life a lot easier. If you prepare yourself for what you have in the upcoming week then things run a lot smoother. Plans meals, your social life and your priorities. Make lists and use a diary, if you can! (Disclaimer: This is such a personality thing and really doesn’t work for everyone.)

Take risks – these can be teeny tiny or really big, but our lives should have an element of risk to bring about change. Just make some hard choices and don’t always pick the easy road. You will be better for it. Push yourself.

Rest – Agh, I can’t tense this enough. Work hard and rest hard. Be intentional about it – book time off to just chill. Do the relaxing things you love like play computer games, read and watch your favourite telly shows. Sleep. Stay in your pyjamas all day. Use the weekend for what it was designed for; rest. Recuperate and enjoy yourself.

Have perspective – Always, always, always have perspective because honestly, you will never ever be happy or content otherwise. Step out of your emotions, your situation and your head to see things for what they are. Truthfully, it’s never really that bad is it? For a start, if you’re reading this, then you are in a 15 percentile group of the world who have access to a computer.

In regards to my own slump, I eventually did what I usually do; I snapped out of it. After thinking about the above points and making changes to my own life, my thinking changed. I made plans for 2013, like places I want to see and things I want to achieve.

I got excited about life again because life is exciting!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, choose to be passionate and thrive. Make the necessary changes for 2013 and then go for it! Many things are out of our control, but we are in our control and we can thrive wherever we are.

I believe in you.

Are you struggling with the end of year slump too? What’s your advice on how to thrive in life?

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For the times they are a-changin’

Do you know what is the biggest and harshest reminder that I am fast approaching my mid-20s? Not my slowing metabolism, the introduction of wrinkles on my forehead (my animated expressions are having a long term effect) or the fact that I have now been working full time for 5 years. Though sometimes these things do help me to consider how time has passed and that I’m not as young as I was.

But the real stinger and flashing red light that things are changing is my Facebook newsfeed. The news of engagement, weddings, pregnancy and then finally, birth (such a drawn out process, honestly!) I am happy for them, and I’m not saying that while simultaneously shooting daggers, I genuinely mean it. These stages are beautiful and a reflection of human development and growth. Eventually, intentionally or not, we expand our lives by starting families. I am in full support of this, especially since it involves men and babies and I like these two things.

Except, I’m not doing it yet so nobody else should be. Or that’s how I feel anyway.

I got into a committed relationship when I was 19, and most of my friends were still single and being “young”. I was young obviously, but lived a more settled and mature life. Though I was happy, there was an element of FOMO because I fell to the wayside of the fast moving London social scene. Now, I’m single at 23 and while a couple of my best friends are also unattached, a lot of people are paired up and if not engaged/married already, the aisle is in sight.

The problem is, kids, is that I’ve gone and done it the wrong way around. After being in happy-couple-land for a few years, all of a sudden I had no boyfriend and a lot of spare time. I was like “heeey where my gurlz at, let’s go out yo.” And they were like “ehh I’m gonna stay home with ______ tonight” and I was all “oh no, I’m too late, I’VE MISSED THE BOAT!” And then I died. Okay maybe not, but I realised that life had moved on and things had changed without me noticing. While talking (moaning) about all this to a fellow single friend recently and jokingly (seriously) abusing everyone for moving on with their lives (“how dare they”), she made a really good call. It was a refreshing slap in the face, if such a thing existed; “Yeah but imagine if we all stayed the same! How boring!”

How right she was. I wouldn’t wish ‘the same’ on anyone, particularly in such defining and amazing years as our twenties. If absolutely nothing – not your friendships, job, goals, motivation, beliefs or relationship status – has changed at all in the last five years, then dare I say it, you’re doing it wrong. If you have not developed, grown, challenged or expanded your mind in any way, that’s a problem. Life is about evolving and hopefully becoming better (not bitter) through experience of people, culture and occupation. Whether it’s from stacking shelves at the supermarket or working in parliament; it’s about learning. If it’s through recovering your broken heart or taking a risk with the person you fancy; it’s about using your heart.

This is why I am genuinely pleased to see my friends getting hitched and knocked up; because they’re taking big and beautiful steps in the grand picture of life. Steps that aren’t always easy, and that sometimes challenge their very core. They are growing. The selfish part of me cries out for our old friendship when they didn’t have such responsibility, but if all of my friends were still single and as selfish as me, I would be worried for all of us.

Whether people want to admit it or not, marriage and children changes the dynamics of friendship with singles. I’m a quality time person and 100% brutal, so I have considered just replacing every friend I have lost to the Family Epidemic (save yourselves!), but it turns out that they are too amazing to lose. Well I’ll be darned, it’s true love. So what I’ve learned in my early experiences as ‘the single friend’ is this: the friends that are worth it will make the time for me, and I can support them by being flexible and understanding.

Honestly when it all comes down to it, I just want to be the best friend I can be, regardless of whatever stage that we’re in. To share in their experiences and do life with them, from talking weddings to which crib to buy. I may not completely understand (“your baby needs to be fed HOW often?”) but I do care and I have a part to play. While I’m not quite there yet, I’m learning so much and am incredibly blessed by the families in my life. Plus, they love hearing the tales of my awesomely pathetic love life, so it’s the perfect trade-off!

I love babies and I love husbands, even if they are not mine. In the next five to ten years, things will change even more for my friends and I. I’m up for it, and I know one day it will be me that’s making the big decisions.

I know I’m not the only one in this position! Put your hand up if you share any of my thoughts. Do you have any advice for singles or couples on how to be good friends to each other, despite the different stage of life? 

When Emotions Lie

Emotions are what make us human; they let us know we are alive, they warn us of danger and allow us to feel and express joy. They are incredibly important. The same way that physical pain indicates that something is not right with our bodies, emotions signal what is going on in our lives. They allow us to empathise and connect with people.

Emotions do something your brain cannot; they speak the language of the heart. But it’s also true that the ‘the heart is deceitful above all things’ (Jeremiah 17:9). Which means that emotions in and of themselves are not wrong because we were created to feel, but they aren’t always right either. So, where the heck does that leave us?

I’m pretty familiar with the subject of feelings – I’m the emotional junkie that wrote this post! I feel a lot and I feel intensely, and that’s how I’ve learnt that sometimes emotions lie. When I was in a relationship this was most evident. I would get upset often about both big and little things, and before I knew it, I was spending most of my life in a bad mood. I was letting the way I felt control me and my relationship, and it’s no way to live.

One day I had a revelation that just because I felt something, it didn’t mean my reasons for being upset were legitimate or valid. Obvious as it may be, this was news to me. I thought that because I was upset, the person involved was in the wrong. It was automatic in my mind: it’s them, not me. I have been wronged, I would think. The truth (a lot of the time) was that I had a certain belief or selfish desire, and because that wasn’t fulfilled, I was frustrated/angry/hurt.

Sometimes it’s you in the wrong, plenty of times it isn’t. Often we are wronged against and our emotions are what so significantly signal that. Our core beliefs lead us to an emotional response in each situation, but often those exact core beliefs are subconsciously selfish or unfair. If we don’t want to be ruled by our emotions, it’s necessary to evaluate ourselves and our emotions on a regular basis.

Talking it out to someone or constantly asking questions of ourselves are good ways to do this. Good questions to ask:

Am I being unreasonable? Why do I feel this way? Is this feeling valid or am I exaggerating? What is wrong with this situation?

It’s like having an argument with a person, except this argument is with yourself. Because you can change yourself and no one else, so you may as well get started. There is no step-by-step guide to assessing this and you just need to pray for wisdom and guidance with each situation. Humility helps, a lot!

Emotions aren’t wrong; it’s what we do with them that can become wrong. Ignoring, harboring or releasing them destructively will harm yourself more than anyone else.

Anger can become bitterness and unforgiveness.

Sadness can become depression.

Annoyance can become constant irritation and unhappiness.

But they don’t have to. Open your heart and your mind. Refuse to let emotions rule you and ask yourself ‘why do I feel like this, and is it justified?’ Sometimes in the height of an argument or situation, we can’t see the woods from the trees, but take a moment to step back and be sure that your emotions aren’t lying to you.

What do you think about emotions? Do you agree that they don’t always tell the truth of a situation? Share in the comments.

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What’s Your Legacy?

I want to leave behind an authentic residue on the earth that will last longer than my life ever could. A residue of actions, words and accomplishments that inspire others.

When I was 15, in a sermon I was posed with a question that has never left me; what will people say at your funeral? What a powerful way to live our lives – to be present, yet know we are leaving a mark on the world that no one else can.

Jesus didn’t write the Bible; his disciples and people that witnessed his life and ministry did. What will people say about your life after your gone?

I want people to say I knew how to laugh at myself

I want people to say that I was a ‘go-getter’ that didn’t let opportunities pass me by

I want people to say that I was kind and loving

I want people to say that I always had an open hand

I want people to say that I was a blessing

I want people to say that I knew how to listen

I want people to say that I was a joy to be around

I want people to say I made them feel good about themselves

I want people to say that I was genuine

I want people to say that I was fun

I want people to say I lived with purpose and intent

I want people to say I pointed them to Jesus

I want people to say I pleased God’s heart

I want people to say that it was obvious I didn’t care what they thought about me

I want people to say I was organised

I want people to say I was smart

I want people to say I was successful

I want people to say that I knew who I was in Christ

I want people to say I was outrageous

I want people to say I was determined

I want people to say I was consistent

I want people to say I was an overcomer

I want people to say I had integrity

I want people to say I had a hunger for God

I want people to say I made them I loved them as they were but knew they could be better

I want people to say I was a loving daughter, sister, aunty, friend, mother and wife

More than any of the above, I want Jesus to say that I made Him proud.

Some of these things I have been since I was born, some of them I am on my way to, some of them are so far off they’re a distant goal. But it starts with a decision.

Decide now and then go out and live it because life is short and your legacy is long.

How do you want to be remembered? 

Confession: I can’t fix myself & I don’t know everything

I like to think I’m pretty emotionally stable. I process my emotions, I don’t run away (I try not to anyway) and I cry a lot.  I’ve even been known to call myself a ‘self-analysing pro’ because I can come up with a reason for every single one of my behaviours. I’ve got my sh*t sorted right?

Wrong. Turns out I am somewhat of an ’emotional perfectionist’ (self-diagnosed, of course. See previous paragraph!). No but seriously, I like to be so in control of my feelings and know exactly why I do everything that I don’t let things happen organically.

This is my greatest blessing and my greatest curse, because while I’m very emotionally ‘in-touch’ (are you loving all this psycho-babble?) I also over-think to the point of insanity and exhaustion.

When I talk to my friends I like to sound like I’ve got it all together. Then in the dark of the night I break down, because emotions and grief work on their own schedule that you can’t really control. Turns out being human has some painful disruptions, and I don’t have my sh*t sorted at all. 

So I told my over-active mind to go on holiday and called in a professional.

Yes, I’ve started seeing a counsellor; someone who has qualifications and actually knows what he is talking about; someone who can help me fix me so I don’t have to do it all by myself.

I went to my first session with a heavy heart; I was sad, lonely and running on empty. On the journey there I prayed ‘Please Lord let this be good for me, let me gain something from this because I’m spent and don’t have any strength left’. God heard me. I sat there and released months worth of tear-stained words to someone who is paid to listen to me. I didn’t feel guilty for ‘dumping’ on him, I just went for it (pray for him, poor guy!). He helped me reach some important conclusions in that very first session and I  left feeling so light I thought I might just fly.

The second session was a little harder, grittier and a hell of a lot more painful. That’s when the good stuff happens though and hey, I’m still alive. During these sessions my pain is justified, understood and accepted, but our (my counsellor’s and mine) ambition is my healing and I’m not allowed to sit in my pain and pity for longer than necessary. I must keep moving forward.

I’d rather be dealing with this at 22 than at 42, 52, 62 when I’ve caused other people pain from my own wounded heart. Have you heard? Hurt people hurt people. All of my hurt has come from hurt people, and out of that hurt I’ve hurt more people. It’s a vicious cycle, BUT I have the power to break it and it’s my choice whether I do or not. No I won’t ever be perfect but the goal isn’t perfection, it’s wholeness in Christ so that I’m not operating everyday life out of brokenness.

You might be thinking ‘gosh she is so honest, telling the blogosphere she is screwed up enough to go to counselling’. If it helps you, then heck yes I am honest enough. Frankly we are all screwed up at least a tiny bit, even if we like to act like we’re not. It’s what makes us beautifully human. 

Here’s a tip sponsored by moi: if you have faced trials in the past that you still haven’t overcome, or if you’ve never been to a counsellor, or just think it would be good for you, then go and talk to someone. Who knows, you may only need one session, or you’ll need loads. Whatever the case, deal with your pain so that it doesn’t deal with you. Also I personally think that if you’re in a relationship then it’s even more important; there is a lot of stuff that comes up when we share our lives intimately with someone, and sometimes they can’t carry our baggage. Oh and because I don’t like to leave anyone out: if you really are emotionally stable and this doesn’t apply to you, then that is great and feel free to ignore this paragraph!

All this was to say it’s nice not having to figure everything out by myself. Yes I still have to think, feel, process. However I am externalising it in a healthy environment instead of running circles in my mind. Oh and in case you were wondering, my over-active mind came back from her holiday and then handed in her notice of resignation. Turns out I don’t need her anymore, anyway!

If you can closely relate to the above and need to talk to someone about it, then feel free email me. Sometimes it’s just nice knowing someone understands and is there to listen. 

Hey You, Be Better!

Sometimes, I’m very impressionable. Occasionally, I make bad choices. Every now and then, I lose sight of who I’m living for.

Most of the time, I know I can be better.

Whoever you are and wherever you are; you can be better too. Don’t get me wrong, you’re already great. Chances are we’re friends if you’re reading this and I’m only friends with great people. (If you’re reading this and you’re not my friend then that is GOOD and you’re great too because it means I’m gaining more readers!)

Trust me, I know my good points and I know I’m already pretty great. But my point is that I can be greater. I can stay the same as I am now but that wouldn’t do me any good, because I can be better.

I’ve realised that I can be very influenced by my world around me to the point that I reduce my ideals and standards according to others, either for their approval or just to fit in.

Then I remember I’m not like everyone else; I am from the world but I am not of the world. I’m living for the audience of One, the One who loves and adores me as I am. The One who believes in me and knows I can be better too. The One who makes me better.

Always be inspired by the great people around you, but never try and be them. Be you.

Don’t excuse yourself from certain behaviour because you saw someone else do it.

Never think of yourself better than anyone; you haven’t arrived and you never will.

And don’t live for the approval of people, you will die trying.

Better is whatever you make it. Better is one step further than where you are now. Your better and my better are probably different. That’s okay.

For me, better is

+ Smiling more on the tube where no one smiles (I am honestly too scared which is ridiculous, I know)

+ Sitting down with the local homeless guy and chatting

+ Giving my friends the time they deserve

+ Living with an open hand

+ Being on time all the time

+ Giving God the praise He deserves

+ Working hard at my craft

+ Living with integrity

+ Persevering, committing

+ Forgiving

+ Giving my very best in my job

+ Worrying less, trusting God more

You get the picture. What is better for you? Define it and live it. But also encourage yourself. It’s a journey. Perfection is not the aim, growth is. That can be one step or five steps, the point is that you’re growing and being better.

Now and Then

We did not change as we grew older; we just became more clearly ourselves.  -Lynn Hall

When you are through changing, you are through.  -Bruce Barton

Life changes and we change with it; that’s just how it goes. The weird thing about it is that we can only see how we’ve changed in retrospect. I have been thinking a bit about how I’ve changed since I moved from New Zealand to London in 2008. The experience of moving overseas and travelling has inevitably changed me in a unique way. If I had stayed at home, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I have also changed in age just like everyone else, yet so much can change in those ‘development years’ of 18-21. In some ways I don’t recognise the girl that landed in London almost three years ago, yet in other ways we are still the same person and always will be.

So, who was I then? People have asked me how I moved to London alone at such a young age, with no friends or family living here. To be honest, I don’t know how I did it because I feel more vulnerable now than I did then. I was naturally apprehensive with questions constantly swimming around in my head; what’s it going to be like? Who am I going to meet? Will I be homesick? The concerns of homesickness were very applicable because of the distance between London to New Zealand, and I had only booked a one-way ticket. But I put my head down and didn’t let my fear stop me; I knew it was the right thing to do and that I would be okay. It’s like I had put my running shoes on the day that I decided to go to London. By the time it was time to leave 6 months later, I was ready to run from everything I knew and into the unknown. I was ready to grow up as my own person with nothing to hold me back.

Sadly I was so eager, almost too eager, to grow up. I wanted to leave behind my complicated childhood to a life that I could create myself, without any unwanted additions. It was my dream; to pick and choose who I had in my life and what I did everyday. I was craving independence and a fresh start. I also desperately wanted to be taken seriously; I thought I could do anything and wanted everyone to see through my fun and ditzy persona. Underneath my social façade there was a deep and intense girl. I had flown (quite literally) the nest and was ready to take over the world.

What I didn’t see then, because I lacked the humility and maturity, was that I had so much to learn. If you had given me the world I would have tried my best, but crushed it like a delicate flower in my hand. I was not ready for anything but I thought I was ready for everything. Thanks to some incredible people that I’ve met along the way, I’ve learnt a lot. On the first day of my first job in London, I called my boss ‘dude’ because I didn’t know how to address her. Uh, maybe by her name?! Cringe. However, thankfully, she doesn’t remember this happening and laughed her head off when I recently recounted the horrid memory to her.

My life has changed incredibly since I moved to London. Friends have come and gone, there have been romances, hurts, travels, lessons, trials, amazing ups and very low downs. My whole life I have always worn my heart on my sleeve, even as a kid on the playground I would do whatever it took to hold on to a friend. A few weeks after I finally put my heart in its rightful place as a woman, I met my amazing boyfriend. Life’s funny like that.

So far, there is not one thing I can pinpoint as ‘the reason’ for my moving overseas. I always thought there would be, ‘Ah-ha! That’s why I came here, it all makes sense now’. Now I can see that there are many reasons; I had an incredible job where I learnt a lot that will be the foundation to the rest of my career; I’ve found love, which has softened my heart; I’ve travelled, which is something that cannot be described, only experienced. But more than anything, I’ve grown up, pure and simple. I think that’s why I came to London and the rest is just what’s happened along the way! I am so thankful and consider myself incredibly blessed. And it’s not over yet, I’m still here.

Who am I now? I am more vulnerable because someone has cared enough to teach me how. I am happier because my expectations are realistic. I am more secure because I know that I am loved. I am more confident because I know what my strengths are. I am more mature because I have learnt from my mistakes. I am less hyperactive because I no longer feel the need to seek attention. But while being all of the above, I am also still me. I am still a chatterbox, have bad punctuality and bad financial management, and still struggle with anxiety. Hey, life’s a journey… Hopefully on our death bed’s we’ll all be perfect!

If you gave the world to me now, I would give it back to you. Because even though I have three years more life experience, I know that I can’t take over the world. I know that all I can do is today, and do it well. Each day contributes to the next, and we can only take one at a time.

Then. So excited to be in London, 2008

Now. Barcelona, 2010