What’s your definition of risk?

If someone asked me if I was a risk-taker by nature, I would say absolutely not. Hell no. I don’t take risks! I’m sensible, logical, practical, and I want an easy life.

Except, if I look at the choices I’ve made, I don’t think it would be right to say, categorically, that I’m not a risk-taker. And the thing I’m about to do next? Well, that is one big-ass risk.

But what is a risk, anyway? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as:

A situation involving exposure to danger’

and

The possibility that something unpleasant or unwelcome will happen‘.

If I think about how I would define a risk, it would simply be:

Stepping out my comfort zone.

You know, that zone where you feel safe and secure. Where everything is familiar. Where, if you step out of that bubble, you’re faced with the unknown. A place where you can’t feel safe because you don’t have your bearings. A place where you can’t feel secure because you’ve been uprooted. A place that isn’t familiar because you’ve never been there before.

But let me ask you this. How did you find your comfort zone in the first place?

You weren’t born into it. You found your way there through a series of decisions. Many of those decisions will have been decisions you’d never made before. Does that make them risks? Some would argue yes (ahem, me). Doesn’t every decision affecting your life have an element of risk attached? Of taking you from where you are to where you’re going?

You can never be sure of the consequences.

I struggle with the concept of the comfort zone. I know I have one, and I know I like it (clue is in the name) but I also know I want to push myself out of it and into a new one. A better one. And that alone suggests that a comfort zone can only be comfortable for so long. Like a bed.

I remember buying the bed for my flat almost half a decade ago – good lord – and I’d narrowed it down to two. The lady said to me, “pick the one you would most like to crawl into when you get home from work and you’re really tired“. I kept running from one to the other, trying to decide. Eventually, I settled on one. Squishy, luxurious, ever-so-dream-inducing. We’re still together. It’s served me well, but it’s developed a few little lumps (I couldn’t afford memory foam, ok), and you can tell that even the bed is getting tired. In another few years I’ll probably be able to feel the springs.

Something that was once so wonderfully comfortable, after a little while and a little wear and tear, loses its comfort. Comfort becomes adequacy. Adequacy becomes discomfort. 

When you really think about it, how comfortable is your comfort zone? What’s keeping you in it?

And if you pushed yourself into something new, something which initially makes you feel small, scared, intimidated, vulnerable or <insert negative here>, could you completely rejuvenate the comfort you experience?

I guess that all depends on your definition of comfort.

This ‘thing’ I’m doing next. It terrifies me. It’s the opposite of comfortable. My comfort zone is on another flipping planet. But it’s the comfort I believe I can find as a result of taking a risk that spurs me on.

And if I let the fear of change stop me, I’d regret it more than I regret just eating half a tub of Haagen-Dazs. Which is a lot.

So tell me, what’s your definition of risk?

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Dealing with doubts

question-marks-background

Doubts. The little buggers. Creeping up on us, wriggling around in our brains, leaking into all our positivity by screaming ‘BUT WHAT IF?‘. I have a lot of them.

In some ways, they’re healthy. They can prevent rash decisions, mistakes, and foolish behaviour. But, do they go too far? And by going too far I mean, do they limit me? Do they hold me back from doing the things I should do?

This had me thinking, are doubts actually akin to a conscience? That little voice of reason? Are doubts actually just balancing out the right and wrong choices to make and actions to take? I don’t know.

What I do know is that doubts have to be challenged. Doubts exist to stop us from doing, rather than compelling us to do. I want to be a doer. So, naturally, that means I have to challenge any doubts I have about ‘doing’.

I’ve had to face a lot of doubts recently. I’m still facing them. Part of me thinks I should let them win. They’re right! I can’t do it. It’s a silly idea. But the braver side of me deduces that doubts are not real. Their lack of tangibility equals a lack of reality. In other words, doubts might not come true.

For example, one of the doubts I’m facing at the moment is, ‘It will probably fail, so what’s the point?‘. Well, the point is, it might not fail, actually. If I was to listen to that doubt, I would be repressing the strongest form of myself. I would be wrapping an invisible chain around my own potential.

I would be contributing to my own failure. By not trying.

Not trying means not achieving.

And I will never know what I can achieve unless I try. I think that’s the answer to life, don’t you?

But in order for us to take that small step, or make that giant leap, we have to deal with the doubts. This is the best way I can sum it up:

Those seeds of doubt that have planted themselves in your head? You must starve them of water. You must starve them of water until they dry and wilt and eventually turn to dust. 

Be rational, of course. Doubts only grow themselves in order to protect us. But it is for us to realise when our doubts are growing more than we are. And, in those circumstances, it’s our responsibility to stunt them. To find the strength to quash what is hindering us. Because, if you let your doubts grow, they will transform from seeds into weeds.

And weeds are no good to anyone.

Weeds are spoilers. They thread themselves through all that is good and try to take over. Let them spread too far and the damage will be irremediable. The scales will tip in favour of your doubts and there will be no turning back.

Don’t let yourself reach that point.

You control your doubts, and the effect they have on your life. Not the other way round.

My reversed lent

Typewriter

I’m not religious. That’s not to say I haven’t given things up for lent before, I have (tried). Just not for religious reasons. Yes, I understand lent is about penance and self-denial, but deprivation isn’t what I’m looking for right now. I’m looking for enrichment. That’s why I’m using lent as a reason to add something to my days, rather than take something away.

This year, there will be no commitment to giving up chocolate. There will instead be a commitment to write. Outside of work. Every. Single. Day. It will be tough. Especially as I’ll be on holiday for a week of it.

Lent is about challenging yourself to do without, but I’m challenging myself to do with. To do with a pen and paper or a keyboard and screen. To do with thoughts and words and ideas. To do with taking a blank page and embellishing it in whatever way I feel like. I’m not giving myself minimum word counts to achieve – I’m someone who believes firmly in quality over quantity – but I am pledging to create something, every 24 hours.

Doing this will hopefully bring me closer to the elusive sense of purpose I seek. Seeing things come to life, literally through my fingers, in a few short weeks. Seeing how far I can go. How much I can grow. No more ‘I don’t have time’, ‘I’m too tired’, or ‘Shall we stick Netflix on?’.

Having ambition is one thing, but achieving ambition is another.

I’ve seen what’s at the end of a rainbow

Rainbows and tears

Nature is full of surprises. It was a dark day in so many ways. Sombre, melancholy, achingly sad. But at the moment of the final goodbye, the most incredible and beautiful thing came to life. A rainbow, vibrant and proud, right in front of my eyes. This wasn’t a rainbow you could see in the distance, visible but untouchable. This was a rainbow that started, and ended, in the very next field. No more than 50 metres from me. Wonderful and bright. Just like them.

Perhaps this isn’t so incredible. Perhaps many of you have seen the end of a rainbow too. But I hadn’t. And in that moment it was so fitting, so perfect, that it became unforgettable.

It was them, I was so sure it was them.

But, like everything, rainbows come and go. That doesn’t change the fact that I’ve seen what’s at the end of one.

There was no pot of gold. But there was hope.

There is always hope.

Stress really stresses me out

Outsourcing stress

The word ‘busy’ suitably defines my time at work this week. We’ve been working on a tender the size of my backside (which is pretty big). I don’t know what it is about deadlines, but it always seems to go to the wire. Goodbye zen, hello heart palpitations. One part of this tender involved my first major contribution. Lots and lots of writing, and the responsibility for making it sparkle all on my shoulders. That’s pressure. That’s getting so absorbed in something it takes your heart and soul for a little while. That’s stress having its way with your body through pounding headaches.

Believe me, when the pressure is off I know exactly how to relax. I’m pretty good at closing the ‘work’ door of my brain. But when there is work to be done, and a limited time to do it in, I go batshit crazy. Stress seems to control me. And it’s really rather annoying. Annoying to the point that I actually get stressed out at how stressed I am. Yesterday I left work when I simply couldn’t do any more. My brain had frazzled itself and shut down of its own accord – just like my computer does sometimes. I got home, popped some pills (disclaimer: they were over the counter ones) and put myself to bed to try and beat the pain with rest.

But could I rest? No. I was too tense. Too uptight. And then my brain woke up. I can’t complain too much because I ended up being very productive lying there in a dark room; I managed to nail a headline that I’d been struggling with. But that’s not the point. The point is that when stress does rear its silly ugly head, I let it take over. I let it rule everything. And it’s bad for my health, and my sanity.

At university I got so stressed that my hair started to fall out. I took some stress relief technique classes and, although I’m not sure they helped directly, I did get a better grip on coping with stress. At least, I thought I did. It hasn’t felt that way this week. Maybe I’ve just become better at relaxing when I don’t have things to worry about, and then gone into total breakdown when I do. Whatever it is, stress is not conducive to productivity. A little can be helpful, but a lot can send you over the edge.

I need to learn to take a breath and remind myself that stress is not my friend. So I shouldn’t give it the time of day. When it walks down the path towards my front door, I must try not to let it in. But that is so much easier said than done.

Acknowledging our achievements

Success

I’ve been neglectful of this little blog over the last couple of weeks. There’s no real reason for it, I guess I just ‘haven’t found the time’ to blog, but that’s a poor excuse. There is always time, I just need to utilise it more efficiently.

One thing I did find time for was writing an article to submit to the Huffington Post. The last 12 months have been significant for me for a number of reasons, one being my career change. Ok, my two career changes. Writing about this was, in some way, soothing. Taking thoughts from my head and leaking them through my computer keyboard on to a screen is incredibly therapeutic, and the Huffington Post article was no exception. Those changes were a big deal for me, and my life has totally changed as a result. So to know that I was being judged on that was a little scary. What if the editors didn’t like it? What if it wasn’t interesting enough? What if the writing was too weak?

When I found out it had been accepted for publication I was really, really happy. My thoughts, my words, were going to be available to the millions of readers of the site. That is an achievement. A success. And I’m going to be able to contribute on a regular basis. That is even more of an achievement. I think it’s something worthy of some pride.

Shortly after my article was published, I had a comment from a reader. It wasn’t negative, but it challenged some of my advice (not that I would like to class it as advice, per se). For example, the commenter said that if a person had children, they couldn’t just ‘decide’ to change their career path if it resulted in a drop in earnings. Obviously, individual circumstances determine the decisions we make, but I honestly believe there is always a way to make your life better. It might mean making a sacrifice, but that sacrifice isn’t necessarily a pay-cut. Plus, I don’t have children, so I didn’t have to worry about that when making my decision.

I guess what the comments taught me is that my writing – naturally – relates to my own personal experiences, so I cannot resonate with everyone who might read it. That would be impossible. And to try and write something to please everyone would probably result in a poor piece of writing. I need to feel confident in my abilities to reach out to a particular group of people. A group of people who might be at a similar stage of life, who might have had similar experiences, who might need that something to help them on their way, or who might simply like my writing!

If I am to put myself out there then I need to accept there are potential consequences. Negative reactions and comments that challenge or criticise. But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that my writing is out there in the first place, having been deemed good enough to publish. And it shouldn’t stop me from going to find new success.

My own personal achievements still exist, and I should acknowledge them. Just as you should acknowledge yours.

The winter thief

stormy-winter-landscape

I’m sitting here writing this while Olly is at the gym, and I’ve just finished watching two back to back episodes of Silent Witness. I’m a lard arse. A lazy moose. I’ve lost my get-up-and-go. I reluctantly get out of bed in the mornings, as late as possible, go to work, come back from work, and then sit down. And once I’m sat, why oh why is it so damn hard to get back up? If I have no real, pressing reason to leave the flat, then I won’t leave it. And if I don’t leave, it’s too easy to be unproductive. I haven’t always been like this, I think to myself. So why the unfortunate current state of self? The winter thief. That is my answer. The winter thief, that is winter itself.

I find the cold displeasing. If that cold is compounded by darkness I am further displeased. Add rain, or heaven forbid rain and wind together, and you can bet your last Rolo that I will be tucked up somewhere warm and dry with snacks. Winter. Dark mornings. Dark evenings. Miserable, beautiful, but miserable weather. You steal my motivation, my enthusiasm, my inspiration to do ANYTHING. You with your frost and hail, sleet and thunder. Do one.

I have to face facts. Winter isn’t going anywhere just yet. And, at this rate, neither is my spare tyre. I said to Olly the other day that people are going to start mistaking me for a garage. As much as we laughed, it’s a serious thing. I wrote a post a while back about lifestyle changes and although I’ve achieved some I have a long way to go. And I’m not doing it for anyone except myself.

So, watch yourself winter, I’m stealing my shit back.

I’m going to join a gym (yawn). A gym which I know I will hate going to, but be glad when I’ve been. I’m going to make even more healthy fruit and vegetable smoothies with my gadget pal the NutriBullet. Put a pile of kale on my plate and I’ll tell you where to stick it, but blend it with other bits and pieces and you will never know how bad it could have tasted. I’m also going to try and continue getting up earlier (I only manage this on occasion at the moment). I know how good I can feel after a morning workout so why can’t I just do it more often.

I saw this earlier. It might inspire you in the same way it has inspired me. I want to be a girl that can too. I can sit down and be pathetic watching Mad Men (it’s about advertising though and therefore counts as work, right?) with one two pots of strawberry and banana flavoured Munch Bunch beside me, but I can also sweat like a pig while kicking some ass and let my endorphins spread their rusty wings.

From now on, POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE. That’s all I really need. And no winter thief should be able to take that.