How to be happy even if you're English

what is happiness and how to get it


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Being your own Great Aunt Vi

Have you ever done that thing when you cheat on the cleaning?  I mean when you’re mopping the floor and there’s a bit (under the table, or in the corner, or under that tangle of flexes) where you think ‘really? Is that necessary?’. That thing.

You pause, and consider; who is this for, exactly? Is it for me, for my family’s cleanliness and health, for the joy of being super-shiny and lovely? Or is it because my mum, or Great Aunt Vi (long since deceased) would disapprove and I can FEEL their disapproval of a job Not Done Well and I will never sleep, knowing the shame of my inner slovenliness.

Do you know that feeling?  I do. People pay me to clean their floors, so I should know better. But still the temptation to skimp arises because, frankly, it’s dull and tiring work. I had that same feeling today.  And as before (I confess, I have these sinful thoughts recurrently) I reminded myself of the story of Jake’s work experience.

Jake is lovely. He’s a darling. He’s creative and funny, warm and entertaining. But aged 16, he wasn’t the worlds best contributor at home. And that, dear reader, is why 16 year olds go on work experience. It’s also why I wasn’t surprised. It went thus:

Me: How was your day?

Jake: Good and quite fun really. We had a laugh and then he went off for a bit and asked me to sweep the leaves. I got bored and laid down and fell asleep. I woke up when I heard his van and picked up the broom but I don’t know if he saw me. Hopefully it looked like I was working.

It’s a small story but resonant. And there was I, this morning, mopping and revisiting the same conundrum; Do I make it look like I have been working or do I (and this is a mature grown up thinking) actually cover that extra few inches with the mop (ergo, work)? Do I adopt the teenage work shy approach, or do I get on with it and hold my head up high?

Because that’s the crux – holding your head high. Setting your standards by the highest markers around you, not the lowest. Being your own Great Aunt Vi. And of course I did the job properly, as always, and as I knew I would even as I approached the conundrum. The Vi in me wins; not because I want to be virtuous, but because cheating just doesn’t sit well. And there’s a neurotic part of me that wouldn’t want to be caught out with a hidden camera.

Job completed, I sat down with my book. I’m reading ‘Moranthology’ by Caitlin Moran. I’m on the bit where she talks about what it’s like to be 35% famous; about how being recognised by people, just a bit, leads her to be nicer – to compliment, or encourage, or acknowledge. She’s noble enough to recognise it’s not pure altruism, more a fear of what others might say about her. The more visible you are, the more it matters how you act. Like Superman; with great power comes great responsibility.

I bet Superman had a Great Aunt Vi.


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30 secrets for starters..

here's a secret..

here’s a secret..

Occasionally it helps to write things down. These are reminders.

  1. Find out who you are.
  2. Say thank you. And mean it.
  3. Parents are just people in disguise.
  4. Giving is really important.
  5. It’s up to you. No excuses.
  6. Ask. Learn. Be smart.
  7. Redefine problems.  There are challenges, obstacles, blocks, surmountables, learning curves, new experiences, growth curves, different viewpoints.. all these are positives. Choose one of these instead of a problem.  Much nicer.
  8. Friends are family you’ve chosen yourself.  Let them know you value them.
  9. Expect more from yourself than from others.
  10. Grace is seriously underrated.
  11. Think big.
  12. Learn when to shut up.
  13. Don’t wait for others. Get on with it.
  14. Exercise is key. Walk to the shops.
  15. Your mum was right about food. Eat well.
  16. You are really, really amazing. Honestly.
  17. There’s always help.
  18. Asking for advice is a good move. But you don’t have to act on it.
  19. Look people in the eye and smile.
  20. You have one mouth and two ears. Use them in that proportion.
  21. There’s always a way.
  22. Don’t wait for others to invite you. Call them.
  23. Everything’s connected.
  24. Learn the difference between belief and focussing.
  25. Staying in bed solves nothing.
  26. Go one step at a time, all the time.
  27. Think first (your actions might bite you on the bum one day)
  28. Other people notice.
  29. Greetings are important.
  30. So are goodbyes.

That’s just a few. Do share yours.


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This is your dawn

We have a new year precisely because we need to give ourselves opportunities to review and redirect our course. The new year isn’t a natural or arbitrary phenomena. It’s a man made device. It’s there because wise, thoughtful people put it there. They thought it would be a good idea. We all know this, but we don’t dwell on it. It’s as if we would rather gloss over the fact that good ideas exist.

Personally I’ve not made any resolutions this new year. But the anniversary has provided opportunity to reflect with pride on the astonishing things I have made happen in my life over the year. It’s been a year of considered, determined, wholehearted and value-driven changes. To my amazement, I have ticked off the whole list that I set myself a year ago.

I know that not every year will be like this. There are challenges, twists and unknowns afoot. But this year I have learnt that unquestionably we all mould our path. Sometimes that can be a hard truth, because it calls for responsibility and constant questioning of our own motives and actions. Not always a pretty sight.

When this awareness becomes integrated in our decisions, ideas become more pertinent and individual contributions to shifts in thinking have more value. You see the power of ideas. They are the beating heart of humanity. And they show just how much people care.

If I were to apply a watchword to my aims this year, it would be to exercise my ability to care. And within that, to notice the care demonstrated by others, in actions big and small. Because motivation, ideas and action are the thread we should all live by.

Happy New Year, everybody. Take a good look, and let your ideas and actions take shape 🙂

You make things happen

You make things happen


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The law of attraction – does it work? Part 3

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This is where I was –

1) In a dark, lost and scary space emotionally

2) With an advanced awareness of the power of the focussed mind.

It led me to the Law of Attraction.

If you don’t know about this, it’s basically the premise of an abundant universe and the innate ability we all possess to tap into it; namely to focus on our desires and follow our hearts and achieve our goals. Akin to the power of prayer.

Probably the most well-known publication is Rhonda Byrne’s ‘The Secret’, and I spent a summer ingesting the content of it. All very familiar.

The idea of the Law of Attraction is that it can be applied to any aspect of your life, and there’s no higher power affiliated; just you and the universe. What’s good about it is that it dispenses with the ‘I don’t deserve it’ or ‘it’ll never happen to me’ attitudes that create barriers to progression and achievement and which, frankly, a lot of us commonly hold. Including me. It offers a vehicle for more expansive thinking and an opportunity to challenge your expectations and perceived placement in the world around you. What’s difficult about it is that it commands a leap of faith, and that comes with a risk.

I put it to the test.

Guidance on Law of Attraction principles suggests that you identify your goal, visualise it (this is a deep visualisation process which necessitates FEELING the realisation of your goal – a practice that cements the aim in your mind and body so that it becomes ‘real’) and make an internalised assumption that it will happen; a kind of ‘abracadabra’ approach (which translated from Arabic, essentially means ‘make it happen’).

Essentially, my experience of focussed application (see part 2) made me well practiced and I could see that there were wider and larger possibilities than the small goals I’d set myself. Reading The Secret, I knew I was on a well-trodden path and the guidance given could cement my learning. Already something of a pro, I’d set myself a tangible target to test the theory.

The website for ‘the Secret’ offers a print-out cheque book that you can fill in with your wish-figure. I’m not comfortable with the materialistic applications but as an experiment (and partly to challenge my too-English approach to assumed wealth) I plumped for £100,000. It’s a sum well beyond my experience, so a clear indicator should it leap into my account, but also one which I’d be comfortable with should it arise. (There’s greed and then there’s Greed). I gave it a year to materialise, but fully expected it to be sooner. I’m often surprised at how quickly opportunities arise when goals are clearly set.

746d737b8f7849b9eb2b4bb5b26e1c2cWell, I can confidently report that it didn’t.

You might not be surprised, but I was. I’d had such consistent results throughout my life that I believed it would come. Not in a ‘it will, it will’ persistent kind of way but in a gentle, pervasive knowing. Like an accepted truth. I’d done everything by the book, as it were. Using all my previously gained knowledge and awareness, and that gleaned from the Secret. But no £100k. Hmm.

The thing is, though, that I didn’t really need it. I’d been feeling so much more affluent since the experiment began, and in the knowledge (albeit misguided) that the money was coming I’d set myself little goals; tick lists of purchases that needed addressing to make my family’s life more comfortable. I’d bought a reconditioned mac, a new fridge from the charity shop, a condenser dryer (hooray!) step by step, purchase by purchase. Nothing frivolous, just helpful. Things to aid our time and quality of life.

And in the meantime I’d stopped feeling the need for ‘feel good’ purchases. I wasn’t trawling charity shops and supermarkets any more looking for a little ‘something’ as a trophy. And my habit for lifestyle magazines was quenched. Altogether, I felt less pinched, less hard-done-by. Happier.

I heard via a friend a story recently whereby a couple she knew purchased a house on the strength of their belief, based on the Law of Attraction principles, that their ship would come in. It didn’t, with all manner of devastating consequences.

Where am I going with this?

I’d say this; that the Law of Attraction is a practical truth, inasmuch as this – if you apply focussed attention to your goals and your actions, carefully examining your motives and behaviour, you will move forward. If you notice what happens around you, and learn to see opportunities, you will benefit immediately. Recognise inauthentic action (namely greed) within your daily life address it. Your needs will become less and your blessings will multiply. If you can identify your real needs against your periphery ones attend to them and leave the others.  They will dwindle accordingly and you will find space and peace. Then you will find yourself abundant, and you will feel blessed and grateful. Then all you need to do is learn to apply your gratitude.

Watch your internal motives and external actions. Listen to yourself and look to others. If you see good practice from others absorb it and apply where you can. But don’t let the desire to believe overtake your awareness. Be soft and gentle with yourself. You’re a puppy in this, and if you crash it will hurt.


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Talk yourself happy

If we want to be happy we have to do things that make us happy, that benefit our lives and those of others. Our deeds need to reflect what we want to experience. Similarly what comes out of our mouths.

If we talk negatively we generate a negative society. We feel bad because all we are hearing is bad stuff. Like constantly reading bad news in the papers.

I’m shocked sometimes when I hear what comes out of my mouth. How negative I can be with the children, for example. How many negative words I apply when actually I could adopt a more positive turn of phrase and generate a more creative and forward thinking view of things. Instead of a ‘that’s bad’ attitude I could express ‘it would be better if.. or ‘could we try this and see what happens?’ There are lots of subtle shifts we could make, lots of ideas we could explore, with a gentle or subtle turn of phrase.

a26017cef527af8929032082b6ff29f7Last night I compiled a list of words that I consider have positive attributes. A ‘pick list’ that I can delve into to exercise my vocabulary and encourage me to think more about how I use language. By the end of it I felt great. That in itself was a good indicator of the power of positive words.

Here’s the list.I hope you enjoy it. There are loads more you could add of your own, or maybe compile your own poem!

Exemplary ecstatic inspiring profound resplendent magical transformation visionary perfection rewarding peachy remarkable joyous purposeful potential embolden enrapture venture relish adore cherish value improve beautiful vivacious excite glorious emphatic persuasive enduring extraordinary aplomb honey exuberance pleasant advance agree reveal allow accomplish avow welcome radiant appease emulate assemble illustrate embellish abundant ravishing encourage respect embrace abundant radiant respect applaud expansive enduring awesome inspiring effective enrichment empowering effusive ebullient exciting thrill stimulate admirable emancipate embody fix alleviate amend prevail restore anoint exalt enchant wholesome compassion good effective lovely develop gentle growth blessing gorgeous community magic enjoy release resolve adhere excellent pleasing classy treasure accept absorb welcome zenith apex splendour pinnacle ultimate alluring warm aware enabling pleasant creative inventive astute rosy assist help companion partnership radiant compelling sharing enchanting tickle joy refresh approve giggle virtue champion aid agree nurture wish……