Tag Archives | Thinking Differently


It is so easy to get caught up in busyness isn’t it! We have so many things to do, and never seem to get to the end of it.

I have been given the opportunity to write this month’s update, and at first I thought, ‘I am too busy…’ Then I thought again, and realised that it was the perfect time to consider what the busyness is all about. After all, we are called human beings, not human doings!

When I am being me, I tend to be gentler, less hurried, and I pay attention to the important things. I have time to walk with my granddaughter, Amber, stopping at every cat, every flower, and enjoying them. I have time to talk, with friends and strangers, and enjoy the conversation. I have time to appreciate being in my home, and the pleasure of making it really feel like mine.

When I am thinking about what I have to do, I become more rushed, more stressed, notice the lacks rather than the positives more.

Do I end up doing nothing if I allow myself to be before I get into doing? No. I do what I have to do, with more heart involved, with more effectiveness. Our being is driven by our hearts, our doing is driven by our heads. My heart will allow my head in, but my head is less willing to give space for the heart as well.

And when I die, I would like to think that people will describe me in terms of how I was, and how I approached things, not what I did. None of us want an epitaph that just says: ‘She worked hard, and did lots of things.’

We sometimes forget that everyday spirituality consists of a smile, a friendly and patient ear, a kind word, a thoughtful gesture, a sense of humour. Our spirits thrive when our heart is brought into whatever we are doing, and when we remember that we are above all about being.

So next time you are about to rush into the next task, just stop for a moment, and allow yourself to be, then take your heart into what you are doing, and help to change the world.


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Every 2 months I receive a newspaper called Positive News. In it, there is news about peace initiatives, ecological breakthroughs and good practice, ethical businesses – the opposite of what is generally called news!

I find that it helps me to keep the depressing ‘reality’ in perspective, and reminds me that it is not that there is nothing good going on in the world, but that we have forgotten how, as a culture to delight in the good news, because we mostly don’t hear about it.

Once upon a time, news was community-based. The village or small town would know primarily what was happening in its own locality. Then, there would be the mixture of good news and bad, and people would both delight in the good and feel sad or cross about the bad. This type of communication still exists in some places, as well as the global awareness. For example, when my partner left, several people in the village spoke sympathetically of my situation to me. And when I sold my house very quickly and easily, several people made the effort to stop me and congratulate me.

This balanced awareness of what’s happening is useful to all of us, and it is not beyond our reach. Within the worlds we work in, we can ensure that both good news and bad is communicated and reacted to. I don’t think that we need to work on the spreading of bad news – that seems to be endemic! So let’s balance it, by actively promoting the good news – celebrating personal and organisational successes, and reminding ourselves that much of life and much of human behaviour is good news!


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There have been several TV programmes recently that have prompted me to think about understanding. What they have had in common is the theme of really getting to know others and how they think, work, live, and the result of that, which is inevitably a greater sympathy and understanding of their world and the way it works or doesn’t for them.

We talk about understanding something as if it is an intellectual exercise, but the word originally means to stand in their place, and experience it. True understanding will expand our awareness of the possibilities in the world, and will touch us emotionally as well as intellectually.

There have been lovely examples of this in the series called ‘The Secret Millionaire’. Every one of the people who have been giving away money in this series has gone to live in the community for a while, experiencing first-hand the way the community works and the way people live their lives there. And every one has had a change of heart, an emotional experience, a change of attitude – they have also all been moved to tears and seen their experience as a gain for themselves, and not just for those to whom they have given money.

Most of the time, we live in our heads, not because that is natural to us, but because that is what we have learnt to do. As small children, we cannot help but react from our hearts first, but we are good learners, and we soon realise that adults don’t do that. As children, we are also fascinated by other people’s worlds, yet we learn to judge them from our own perspective, and close down to the possibility of learning from them and truly understanding them.

So I have a suggestion: How about finding people whom we have a judgement about and seeing if we can really understand them. These could be our children, our parents, our work colleagues, or a category of people we don’t know at all.

All it requires is being prepared to spend time asking people to talk about their world, and listening with curiosity rather than judgement. Then to really imagine what it would be like to live in that world, and how you would feel if that were your world. For example, many years ago, I was prompted by one of my teachers to ask people begging on the street to tell me their story. It only took a few of those stories to make me realise that it could have happened to me, and that I would probably be an alcoholic or drug addict if it had. It took away my judgement of them, and made me very grateful for my own good fortune in having friends and family that supported me in tough times in my life.

If all of us were just to increase our understanding a little, I think we would change the way the world works!


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How is your world today?

This morning the world feels good to me. All my useful beliefs are running well, and I feel able to do anything that comes my way, and bring the things I want my way. Mornings like this are lovely, because I am more effective, happier, and just good!!

So why aren’t they all like this? I have the evidence that this attitude works well for me, and for those around me, yet I still slip into old habits of feeling the pressure, and running less than useful beliefs about it. And I am one of the lucky ones – I have more freedom to do my work the way I want to than most, and also do work that I really love and care about.

We are so well trained into the belief that things are how they are, that we don’t make a choice about how they are, but simply have to put up with it. Most of us have heard it all our lives!

We need to be constantly reminded that we do have a choice, and that overall, life is good, if we want to live by our own set of rules. I find it useful to have tapes, cd’s, books that remind me, and to take a little taste every day. It is also useful to have some people that you can contact when you are slipping, who will hep you to remember that there is another way.

And finally, it is vital to forgive ourselves when we do slip – beating ourselves up only perpetuates the bad feelings. So next time you realise that you have forgotten to choose to make your life feel good, congratulate yourself, and laugh and have another go!

So, how is your world today? If it’s crap, remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be, laugh, and start again. If it feels good, delight in it, and use it well – you have come past that age old conditioning yet again – how excellent!


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Some years ago, I read a book called “Stopping “ by David Kudtz.  It made an impression on me, I think mainly because I rarely did – stop, that is!  And, for a short while, I did put some “stops” into my life – times when I did nothing, and just allowed life to go by for an hour or two – but it didn’t really stick as a habit.

Now having just spent some time in one of my favourite places, Provence in France, I have realised that one of the reasons I love it there is because the cultural habit is going slow.  I may not have learnt to stop, but I’m pretty good at going slow some of the time, and I’m inclined to increase the habit.

When you sit down in a pavement café, the waiters assume you are going slow, so they don’t rush to serve you, or to ask for payment.  This is not poor service, it’s respectful service, respecting your right to go slow.

It is easy to become impatient when you are used to an “instant response and action” type of life, yet relax into the go slow culture, and you begin to notice the advantages:

  • Proper attention paid to detail – the arrangement of food, the laying of the table
  • Time for contact between human beings – smiles, conversations
  • Things get done, effectively and pleasantly
  • No tempers of frustration, but a tranquil atmosphere
  • A sense of spaciousness in time, instead of it rushing by
  • Room to notice what’s happening around you

OK, it may not be appropriate in our culture to run on “go slow” time all the time.  And sometimes, we may give ourselves permission to slow down for an hour or two in the day, and take that time to reflect, to refresh ourselves.

I love go slow starts to the day, with time to consider, before rushing into action.  And gardening is definitely a go slow activity for me. Maybe it is reading the Sunday newspaper, or having a meal or drink with friends for you.

And how else can we put some go slow time into our busy lives?  I intend to experiment, because I feel so much more as if I’m living my life when I go slow for a while.  I also regain perspective, and feel refreshed by that change of pace.  Why not join me in the experimentation, and see what some “going slow” does for you!!

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Giving and Taking

We tend to think that people divide into two camps – the givers and the takers – and each camp sees the other as wrong in some way. The givers think that the takers are selfish, the takers think that the givers are stupid! So I like the prompt I received from a friend to consider being both a giver and a taker!

It makes so much more sense to be both. There is a balance in it that is healthy and caters for our differing emotional needs – to be kind and to look after ourselves.

And what was the prompt? Well, we were talking about global warming – as you do! – and what we did and could do about playing our part in making a positive difference. We got on to recycling, and I said that it offended me to throw things away that were perfectly useable, but that no charities wanted, such as electrical goods. Gwynne then told me about the freecycle organisation, and gave me the website address. What a brilliant idea! There are branches in every area, so you can ‘go local’, and you advertise there anything you want to get rid of, and look for things you want. The rules are simple – basically, everything is free!

I love the idea of someone finding my throwaway useful, and me finding replacements for free. And over time it balances itself out – you can get what you want from someone and give someone else what you don’t want, and the circle goes around.

As a principle for life, this one appeals to me generally. It is always worth giving to someone, because someone else will give to you at some point, and the person you gave to will give to another – it all goes around. I like to think that I do live by this in a general sense – and now I have found another way of doing the same thing and contributing to reducing global warming at the same time – brilliant!

At a time when we spend so much money on ‘stuff’, much of which is just not really necessary or even desired, it feels like a useful reminder that we can take a different approach…


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We hear a lot about global warming these days, and the dire consequences of doing nothing about it, since it is a man-made problem. However, it can leave us feeling powerless to make a difference, since it seems to be up to governments to change their policies.

We forget that global warming is a direct consequence of the pollution caused by our emissions, which come from the never-ending increase in producing ‘stuff’ and using our energy sources.

Every single one of us can make a difference by our own practices, and it is not hard to do. Many people already recycle, because there are now kerbside collections in many areas. If you don’t, do! We have no kerbside collections here, but we do have recycling facilities next to the supermarket, and it is not hard to put stuff on one side and take it down when you go shopping.

And remember that:

  • Paper includes envelopes, documents, letters, magazines etc., not just newspapers.
  • Card includes all those boxes that our food comes in, cereal boxes, pizza boxes etc.
  • Glass includes the jars we get, not just wine and beer bottles.

The other form of recycling is ensuring that everything you throw out is really worn out. Charity shops will take clothes and books and bric-a-brac that are in good condition, which you just don’t want any more. And in most areas there is a homeless charity that will take electrical goods if they are in reasonable nick.

Finally, if you have a garden, do put your waste veg and fruit on a compost heap. It improves your soil no end, and is easy to manage.

Then there is the reduction of waste through using less. This is not about depriving yourself – it is more about being conscious of what you are doing.

For example:

  • A shower uses so much less water than a bath, so keep the baths to a minimum.
  • And turn the tap off while you brush your teeth, and only turn it on again to rinse your mouth.
  • Take your own carrier bags to the supermarket, or buy one of the ‘bags for life’ most of them are now selling.
  • And turn down that extra carrier bag or plastic bag when you are shopping and put your purchases in the other bags you have.

Why should we bother?

When I was in India, I noticed that people were really good at recycling. Their motivation was probably more immediate – when everything is precious to you, and you don’t have the money to replace easily, you use things more carefully, and more imaginatively! Most of us are not in that situation.

Our immediate world may not be in crisis, but the world in general is. We are running out of energy and water, and our everyday lives are beginning to be affected by the overall global warming. We may be able to live with it now, but what about our children, and their children?

And when it is easy to make a difference, it gives us a way of feeling that we are contributing to the solution instead of the problem – always a good feeling!

If you would like to find out more about the causes and effects of global warming, or how to make a difference as an individual, go to: www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/waste/issues/reduce_reuse_recycle/


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There is no doubt that a major crisis is often the prompt for fundamental change of some sort, whether that be in our personal lives, in organisations, or globally.

What I wonder is if that is the most effective way to be prompted to make a change.

Britain  suspends the debt repayments for the countries hit by the tsunami for ten years – if we had suspended the repayments five years ago, would those countries have been able to deal with the disaster better?

A person is told they have a life-threatening illness and changes the way they live their life – would they have even had the illness if they had been prompted to change their lifestyle earlier?

A business makes a loss and can make no payments to its shareholders, so changes its structure to become more efficient, cutting staff in the process – if those staff had been motivated to become more productive, would the business have made a loss?

As leaders, we are often in the position of responding to some form of crisis at work: a supplier lets us down, key staff are off sick, a customer is threatening to withdraw their custom. Many leaders say that they do not have time for forward thinking, because they are too busy firefighting.

Yet what could we achieve if we concentrated on the possibilities rather than the contingencies?

As a leader you have the opportunity to make a significant difference to how we approach change.

  • You can look forward and try out ways of improving what you already have, so that it becomes more robust and able to ride the crisis.
  • You can inspire your people to give of their best at work, so that there is less need for fire-fighting
  • You can aim to have the best possible service rather than one which is generally good enough, so that customers want to stay with you.

In our personal lives, we achieve most of our change and growth gradually, driven not by crisis, but by a desire to make things even better. If we applied the same principle at work, perhaps change would become an automatic gradual part of our work lives as well and there would be less crisis.


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We are all capable of leading well when times are good, even if we don’t always practise it!  But what happens when times are tough?  These are truly the times that test our mettle as leaders.  Tough times can be two kinds:

  1. When we are personally finding things difficult for whatever reason.
  2. When external circumstances are putting pressure on us.


Let’s look at the personal aspect first.  We all come across this one!  It can range from a short-term demotivated mood, where you really don’t feel like bothering, to a more generalised feeling of being demoralised or fed up.  As a human being, we are entitled to have fluctuations in mood, confidence and motivation.  As a leader, we need to know how to handle these in such a way that they do not cause damaging effects that make the situation worse.

When I was a college department head, we had a drawer in my filing cabinet that was apparently empty.  I say apparently, because actually, we all used it to vent our frustrations, angers and anxieties.  We would open the draw, and tell it exactly what was on our mind, asking others to leave the room if necessary!  When we had finished, we would give it a short burst of air freshener or aromatherapy oil to ‘clear the air’ ready for the next one!  This is one way of satisfying the first need – to express whatever it is you’re feeling.  You can use writing it down, telling a confidante – a trusted friend – or even a filing cabinet drawer!!

Then we need to have techniques to help ourselves to change our state, and help us to get some perspective.  Going for a walk, remembering times when we have felt good about ourselves and our work, and finding something to laugh about all helps.

Finally we need to minimise the situation that will make us feel worse, and maximise those that will make us fell better.  For example we may delay the difficult appraisal interview by a week, and instead talk with one of our most motivated members of staff.  Or we may just clear that damn back log of mails to deal with, so we can feel a sense of achievement!  What we are looking for are the situations which will increase our motivation and perspective, by reminding us of the good bits, and those which will give us a feeling of success.


When the toughness comes from external circumstances, we may need to start by getting ourselves feeling ok, using some of the techniques suggested above.  This is because we need to be able to set the example of how to react, and we can only do this when we feel good.

Often we have a knee-jerk reaction to tough times.  We make rash, short-term decisions, and don’t consider the wider context.  We also frequently forget our values, and look for fixes without considering the consequences.  If we are in a good state, we can take a more fruitful alternative route to decide what we are going to do.

We obviously need to face the situation.  This is best done on your own, or with a team of trusted colleagues first.  Begin by reminding yourselves of what your organisation stands for: your purpose, your values.  Ensure that you remember that your people are not objects, they are human beings, and how you treat them now will have an effect in the future.

Then the questions to ask are:

  • What are the likely and possible scenarios?
  • How can we handle them as well as possible?
  • What influence can we bring to bear to optimise the possibilities?
  • What are the most useful actions to take now?

We all want our leaders to have wisdom, and use their experience well, particularly when times are tough.  You know what would motivate you to do your damnedest to help in tough times.  I know, for me, that I want some straight talking – not pretending everything will be ok – and then I want some constructive thought through things we can all do.  Offer your people something they can act on, and the majority will.  They will certainly respect you as a leader and support you, rather than adding to your problems.

Tough times are bound to happen.  It’s the nature of the dynamics of human beings and organisations.  If we have a ‘tough times’ strategy, we can continue to enhance our abilities as an excellent leader.  Don’t wait for them to happen – start planning your strategy now!!

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I have read many books on improving your life. They range from the ‘quick-fix’ Western-style self-help books to the great philosophical and spiritual masters, and there is no doubt that I have learnt from their words of wisdom, and been reminded again and again of techniques and mind-sets that help us to find well-being.

Yet examples of people living in their well-being seem few and far between in our culture. And then I spend ten days in India, and I experience hundreds of examples: the ‘room-boy’ at our hotel, the shop-keeper selling sacks, the priest in the temple, the woman sitting at her stall of fruit, the man who made the naan bread in the street restaurant – everywhere I looked, I could see people with a ready smile, a sense of purpose, and an ability to appreciate the small daily pleasures of being alive.

What have we lost? And how can we regain it? It is clearly not linked to wealth or status, but to a mindset that filters for the reasons to celebrate being alive.

It seems to me that we have learnt too well how to forget what really matters in life. As human beings, we need to feed our bodies, our minds and our spirits on a daily basis, in order to feel whole, and have a sense of well-being. Yet often we are too busy to do this.

We may stuff our bodies with food, but do we eat well, do we care for our bodies? We may stuff our minds with thoughts, but do they nurture and expand our minds, or just cause them to contract with fears and anxieties? And how often do we even consider feeding our spirit?

This weekend you could take the opportunity to stop and consider how you can enhance your well-being.

  1. 1.  Feeding our bodies

We have become used to eating too much. How about having one day where you only eat fresh food, freshly prepared, that you really fancy. And on that day, treat your body well – a massage, a gentle walk, a long bath – something to care for your body.

  1. 2.  Feeding the mind

Most of us have a good book that we haven’t got round to reading. It may be an inspirational one, or just a really good story – and if you don’t have any, look at some of our reviews for ideas! Give yourself a couple of afternoons to sit cosy and warm, with a good book – or if you aren’t a reader, choose a ‘feel-good’ movie instead!

  1. 3.  Feeding the spirit

Our world is full of simple ways of feeding our spirits. We know our spirit is being fed when we can’t help but smile, when we feel that warm glow of pleasure. Nature is a rich source of spirit food: the delight of a crisp winter’s day, the sound of a river or stream. Or really take the time to watch your children’s excitement at something new, or just smile at strangers in the street, and see how many smile back!

We may all lead busy lives, but we need to remember to live each day, not just get through it. There is always time to give a little food to our bodies, our minds and our spirits.

Maybe then we will be closer to well-being.


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