Saturday, 10 September 2011

Take control

A few years ago, we were inundated with “how to” programmes. Re-vamp your house, one room. Take out all the furniture, paint everything beige and sell it. Make a new garden in 48 hours. That fad passed and we came to the life de-clutter fad. Or the amazing – and I am an unashamed fan – Paul McKenna who showed us how to train our brains to lose weight without dieting and become more confident. Both of these work, by the way. I lost 21lbs in 6 weeks on the first. Shame I didn’t keep it up but that’s my fault not McKenna’s.

There will always be a market for those who we believe can improve our quality of life, but I believe it is time for a rethink. Why are people so stressed these days that they cannot cope? I have a few ideas on that score.

In days gone by, because of the social mores, we all, allegedly, “knew our station”. We accepted it. For the last 30 years, we have all been brainwashed into thinking we can have it all, hence the rise in “Law of Attraction”, “Cosmic requests” websites, where we are told we only need to envisage our success to attract it. Been trying that one for 3 years and so far, nada.

These days, when we are all having to tighten belts, it is much easier to fall into a negative attitude than pick yourself up, dust yourself down and get on with it. A probably apocryphal “speech” by Bill Gates went around the Internet a few years ago. Supposed to be his advice to students, the first item was “Life isn’t fair. Get used to it.” Damn right. Neither will our current “there is no failure, only deferred success” rule in many schools help the pupils one iota when they have to fight for a job. We all have to face reality and realize that we might strive and strive, always do the right thing, make good informed decisions and still fail.
So what can we do? We can’t change circumstances, but we can change how we react to them. I have several “rules” by which I try to accentuate the positive. I don’t always succeed, but I do my best.

1. Don’t hibernate and don’t hold imaginary conversations with yourself that spiral into depression.

2. We might live in a 24 hour society, always accessible via our mobile phones, Facebook, Twitter et al. But it is our choice. The phone has an off switch. Use it. Turn off the Internet. Learn to talk to people instead of texting them all the time. Do not be at people’s beck and call 24/7. Build downtime into your life. Time for you. If they don’t like it, tough.

3. Nobody knows the minutiae of other people’s lives. What might look to you as undeserved wealth and happiness might have come with a price tag you wouldn’t want to pay.

4. Go and do something physical. Work up a sweat, but not in the gym. Make it constructive exercise. Do housework for an hour or some serious gardening.

5. Try to laugh at something every day, the sillier the better.

6. Remember the late Claire Rayner’s dictum – “This, too, will pass”, because, believe me, it will.

7. Hug someone who loves you – your significant other, the dog, a friend.

8. Try to take joy in those things that are free – a beautiful day, a stunning view.

9. And finally, remember that time is yours. Maybe not the time you spend at work, but you dictate how to spend your free time. The richest man on the planet can’t buy the last five minutes. So make it count. You are the only one living your life. You are responsible for you, so take control.


  1. Excellent, no-nonsense advice. Especially the 'build in downtime'. As any self-employed person will know, it is very easy to allow the work to take over your life. Many writers extend their work-time to include the USA time zones - their biggest market. Perhaps, like diet plans, we should detail our working time over a week to see exactly how many hours we do put in.

  2. I couldn't agree more. As Linda said, building in downtime is essential. And yes, I'm guilty of trying to work on a UK time frame and then being available for a US timeline. Did I mention the large sign in front of my desk that says 'No Kittens Will Die If It Doesn't Get Done'? I'm trying to remember that.

    As for diets, pah. Maybe I should start thinking myself thin...