How to be happy even if you're English

what is happiness and how to get it

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Read this again, and again, and again…





Think about this. A lot.



dalai-lama-quoteWhen we pursue something we are busy NOT NOTICING everything else. The goal is our focus. But the goal, at this point, isn’t real.

Devotion, persistence, strife; these are all qualities worth cultivating for a fulfilling, happy life. Pay attention to the nature and content of the goal itself, though. Some goals bring good. Others a mixed blessing. Still others have negative value. Too much focus on a negative goal, to the detriment of positive things present in our lives, will only result in an impoverished life experience.

Look around you. Learn what brings happiness. Look at the goals others pursue and notice the results they bring. Draw inspiration from inspired goals and the creative minds that put them in place. Watch, learn, and impliment. Ultimately you might yourself inspire others through your vision, aims and actions.

Be your own inspiration.

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Warriors for Happiness. The gritty truth.

These days I veer on a-political. I’ve conceded that global politics is way too complex to ever be in a position to judge. So I’ve taken a hands up stance and look more towards motive. Mainly my own. I’ve made politics personal and small. You do the best you can, looking as widely as you can, and watching yourself as best you can. Because at the end of the day it’s just you and your experience of the world. And you have to be accountable to you.

russell-brand Here’s a nice pic of Russell Brand, love him. A fascinating contemporary British icon of authenticity. Russell brings a smile to my heart. A self-confessed bundle of contradiction, I like how he’s able to see his less appealing traits squarely and has reasoned them out, happy to embrace his character honestly, owning his actions and calling us to own ours. Planks and eyes, etc. I like him because he enjoys words and revels in articulate conversation. And because he’s not afraid to question and challenge.

Recently Russell ascended the debating platform with a call to arms. He called on the public to use their weaponry, to withdraw their vote and use their abstention as a battle cry against the Establishment (if there’s one thing the British hate, it’s the Establishment).

It’s an interesting stance and I like his passion. I miss that in British politics. I enjoyed old school evangelism, people throwing their voice out there and opening themselves to others. Daring to poke, challenge, awaken. Daring to present their own thoughts. People like Tony Benn. Politics is a drain without them so Brand gets my wholehearted handshake. But sit on your vote? I’m not sure about that, Russell. Sorry.

Is it me, or should politics, at heart, be a term meaning ‘how to make society happy’? And isn’t an inclusive vision of a society be one in which every voice has participatory value? Is a society that purposefully withdraws their vote a happy one? And will that action serve them towards happiness? I think not. Where does growth fit in this? Where’s authenticity? Let’s be honest; if you purposefully don’t use a vote it has to be because it serves you in some way. If I don’t vote and subsequently the party I least like win, has that served me or my vision? How does it serve me? It serves me by shifting blame. Because I didn’t vote, the others got in and messed up, like I thought they would. Is that a recipe for happiness? Or just a confused society floundering in a lack of concensus and direction?

John-Lydon-in-2013This week, enter John Lydon (aka punk hero Johnny Rotten). Here’s the icon of atheism, Mr Anti-Establishment himself, compelled to challenge with an impassioned call for vote casting, blaming individual indolence for corruption and saying that non-use of a vote is ‘demanding to be ignored’. Yes! The fighting English spirit!

I’m with you, Johnny. Happiness isn’t about putting your fingers in your ears and singing loudly. It’s not about withdrawal or blame. It’s about using your ears and eyes as sharply as you can to discern honest goodness. It means quietly recognising the motives of others and examining those of yourself. And it calls for action. When you know in your heart the best action, you go forward with it. You vote with your heart and your feet. They’re the best tools we have.

Learn your truth and express it. Make it count.

Grrrr 🙂

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Me, Tracey Emin, and The Last Great Adventure on the Redefinement Bus.

Do you ever stop in your tracks and honestly redefine yourself?

It’s a shocking experience. Like being consumed by a giant wave from a giant puddle generated by a gigantian bus.

Forty-eight years I’ve been living on this planet. Feeling and sensing, thinking and responding. Picking up signals. Converting them to a sense of him, her, you, me, it, them, us. Trying things, holding out, holding on, letting go, moving on, going with. A journey that once held a sense of linear purpose. Now a loose and vital sense of wonder.

I was stuck this week by a statement from Tracey Emin about her new London exhibition ‘The Last Great Adventure is You’. Tracey writes

‘As you get older, life feels heavier, more cumbersome. Things get harder to carry around, literally and spiritually.’

The exhibition mainly deals with the physical body— ‘I’m trying to work out why my body has changed so much…I’ve gone from being a really thin girl – even when I was 40, I was thin – to becoming matronly and womanly. I’m trying to come to terms with the physical changes. There’s a big difference between being 35 and 50. Massive.’ Words that could be applied to any aspect of life. You can read the article at The Guardian here.

I like her work because it’s more about thinking and processing than the work itself. It upsets me when her work is lampooned. They’re missing the point. It’s the artist that’s the treasure, not the work. As she says, ‘the kind of work I do, you’re not going to be losing yourself. You’re going to be digging yourself up.’

If you want to dig yourself up, try writing a profile for a dating agency (my style is casual/ smart/ formal/ designer/ natural/ sophisticated/ minimal….please tick). Err…well in my teens I would comfortably say ‘scruffy with aspirations’ moving into ‘earthy meets ethereal’ followed by ‘trying to be professional’ and last time I looked?..ok let’s go with natural. I’d say that’s the underlying, pervasive theme.

Really? What am I?

Walking around I carry a general sense that I’m a pretty good person. A good guy. Some of my friends say I’m lovely. I’ll buy that. It helps to promote that collective image of myself. Yet last night I’m pretty sure that I was a bundle of grumpiness to my kids. And this morning I shouted at my eldest for general tardiness. What would his up-to-the-minute profile of his mother be? Not lovely, that’s for sure.

Clearly the outside profile and the inner one aren’t quite in alignment. Not yet, anyway.

My currently held watchword is redefinement. The next is integration. The questions are how, and what. The actions are watch, apply. The rule is honesty. Always, the rule is honesty. There’s no going forward without it.

As Tracey said, to quote Descartes;

‘Even when a candle melts, it’s still made of wax’.


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what we should be telling our children..


Teaching is one of the things I love best. For many years I taught art and design, and loved it. Teaching a creative subject enables exploration on many levels. Art history enables discussion about values, politics, social models, aspirations. It brings the individual and the collective vision into art. Practical engagement with materials offers tactile and sensual exploration. It shifts the boundaries between ‘I’ and ‘it’. All in all, it’s a wonderful profession. I left, though, because something was missing and I couldn’t put a finger on it.

On reflection I recognise the slow and subtle move towards criteria-based assessment, though not in itself a bad thing (the teaching of the formal qualities of line, tone, colour etc are all primary elements in the skill of looking which I totally applaud – more another time) squeezes out the philosophical and feeling part of art.

Creative activity has several components. Imagination (the ability to bring non-existent things to mind), creativity (the development of original ideas which have value) and innovation (the way these ideas are put into practice). Teaching creativity is an exciting and wide exercise. If the balance is wrong art becomes a cold, result-based commodity rather than a sensory response to society and the life experience.

It’s not that these are discouraged overtly. More that there is no place for them in assessment. It’s not easy to assess sensory response and engagement. Research, planning and agreed outcome are more easy to quantify. In a results-based funding system, that says a lot.

Fundamentally, I realise now, I was trying to offer routes into happiness. I was offering skills and media to alert individuals to their basic sensory response. An opportunity to fine-tune their underlying make-up and develop their own path. I believe strongly that we all have something to offer and that creativity is one of the chief markers of humanity. It’s what keeps us moving forward as a society.

There are champions of creativity out there, so it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact there’s a lot to celebrate. Everyone’s interested in design, and good design is more available to us than ever before. Importantly, employers and organisations now desire creative thinkers as a top priority. How else do you keep your business at the fore?

We should all be out there learning to look, feel, express, enjoy. In short, we should all be learning to be happy and finding our gift to the world. I’m with John Lennon on this one.


on megaphones and authenticity (or how I found my authentic vocation)

If I had a megaphone (and didn’t object to being taken away for a bit) I’d be yelling ‘AUTHENTICITY’ and ‘HONESTY’ from the rooftops.

In the UK the general public fall into two distinct camps; Barking Mad and Distressingly Dull. At this point I’m hovering deliciously between the two.  I think, though, that I have a good point to make.

I experienced an Authenticity Epithany (which is not easy to say quickly, therefore best not announced in a Public Speaking arena) and am now a willing and somewhat excited slave to the big A and it’s little sister, Simplicity.

Consciously integrating authenticity into every aspect of your life is a marvel (and another mouthful). It’s inspiring, illuminating and downright depressing when you see what the lack of it brings. When I look back at where things went awry in my life the root cause is always lack of authenticity. Not heeding or responding to my inner voice. That’s a lesson learned, and I’m grateful for it. What strikes me, though, is that no-one ever taught me about it. Or how to notice, how to listen. Because it seems to me now that we are fundamentally feeling beings. And yet we’re not encouraged to be guided by the nuances of those feelings.

Why don’t we teach our children these skills?

Why don’t we apply them as adults?

Why are they so taboo when they are so fundamental to our happiness and well-being?

Beats me.


If we take the time to value our authentic selves and how to operate with true honesty our lives will inevitably be more fulfilled and functional. We won’t be governed by external pushing and pulling. Advertising would take on a whole new direction (I’m not naive enough to imagine it defunct). The end result, I anticipate, would be a leap of growth in relationships and sharing of ideas. We’d take a monumental step forward in our personal lives and communities.

My personal authenticity challenge has led me to honestly value my true passions and name my vocation. I did this by reflection. By remembering my interests as a child and tracing them through to the present. And by the most extensive de-cluttering process which is still, remarkably, being fine-tuned. I’m redefining. And finding my honest path. When I was 7 I wanted to be a witch. You don’t admit that readily. But now I realise how that fits in with my adult path.

I’m a house-doctor.

What’s your authentic vocation?  Take a look. If you need any help, let me know. Or sign up when I begin my online course, to help you find out! 🙂

Have a wonderful day.