What do you want in life?

What do you want in life?

Life is a one time journey, and yet som many of us settle for drifting through at random rather than mapping out the destinations we would like to see. And sure, it is sometimes fun to go on a whim. But wouldn’t it be nicer to be in charge, to steer your life in a direction that you have set, rather than being led by circumstances?

Do you have a clear grasp of what you want in life? Not just what you wish for, but what you truly want? Then you are ahead of most people.

Here’s a challenge: Before you read on, take a minute and write down 8-10 things you want in life that you don’t already have. This could be anything from a possession to an experience to a career goal or a relationship status.

It is easy to get your wishes and your wants confused. A wish is something that would nice to have, a fortunate situation, a daydream you don’t really see yourself fulfilling: I wish I had a million pounds. I wish I could loose weight. I wish I could be as famous. I wish I drove a Ferrari rathern than a Ford. A want, on the other hand, is more than a flimsy wish. It’s something you truly desire: I want to be a mother. I want to double my salary within the next five years. I want to loose ten kilos.

They look so similar,but unless you know the difference, you could easily spend years dreaming your life away. Luckily, there’s also a very simple method of discovering if what you are daydreaming of is a wish or a want. Just ask yourself this one single question: Am I willing to take action to make this come through? If your answer is no, then you know you are dealing with a wish and you should stop wasting more energy on it. But if you find yourself saying yes, then you can be sure this is something you really want – and it is time to take action.

Challenge update: Look over the list you made earlier and ask yourself the control question: Am I willing to take action to make this come through? How many of the items on your list did you answer yes to?

When you know what you really want in life, you have the advantage of being able to map out the road that will take you there. You won’t get confused by the mirages created by flimsy wishes, but you’ll be able to stay on the path you have decided upon.

Challenge update: Discard your no-items from your list and focus on your yes-items. What actions, small and large, would you need to take to achieve what you want? What action, even if it’s a tiny one, could you do today that would get you started? Got it? Great, now go do it!

My Five-Minute Morning Mantra

My Five-Minute Morning Mantra

Do you ever have one of those mornings where you wake up feeling great, but then somewhere between your bedroom and the bathroom something happens, maybe you stub your toe or one of the kids throws a tantrum, and then the positive attitude just disintegrate and somehow your serene morning has turned into pandemonium. Or maybe that’s just me …?

We had our second child a year ago, and so this last year has been a state of emergency as far as sleep and peaceful mornings are concerned. But finally, finally, the little one seems to get the hang of sleeping through the night (at least some nights), and we are slowly getting back to feeling somewhat alive in the mornings. On the mornings my husband gets up with the one-year old, I will inevitably wake up to the sounds of my family getting dressed and having breakfast. I used to stay in bed, desperate for those extra minutes of sleep, until my husband brought me coffee, but one day I woke up and realised I didn’t need any more sleep (gasp! the luxury of it!). It was the realisation that I no longer needed to make sure I got every single minute of sleep possible in the mornings, that prompted me to start this little five minute morning ritual.

The Morning Mantra
As soon as I wake up, and before I even have had a glance at my phone, I sit up in bed as if meditating, with a cushion under my bum. This allows me to sit straight, with my spine in a neutral position, without sinking into a slump because of the mattress.

I pick an attitude or a value I would like to focus on that day, and this gives me my mantra for the day. If I hear there’s chaos or arguments over clothing (a common theme in our house) on the other side of the door, I might want to prepare myself for that by using the mantra “I am calm and serene, a loving mum”. If know I have a busy day ahead of me, I might use the phrase “I am organised and productive, I get things done.” I will repeat this while I breath calmly and concentrate on how I feel and act in situations where I might be tested on this.

I didn’t really expect much when I started doing this, but I discovered that the mantra set the tone for the day and provides an anchor when I am about to drift off into the chaos of everyday life. If my five-year old is testing boundaries, I will repeat the mantra “I am calm and serene, a loving mum”, and it helps me revert to that calm state rather than get involved in an argument with her. By having a sentence to revert to, and linking it to the quiet feeling of the half-meditative state in the morning, I am able to carry the intention in the mantra long into the afternoon in a way I have never been able to from the positive feeling I randomly will wake up with.

As prescribed by the doctor
Interestingly, a few weeks after I started doing this, I came across a similar advice in a book I was reading at the time. The book is called Confidence, by Dr. Rob Yeung, a British psychologist. In this book, he suggests that:

early on in your day, you think back to the vision of the life you’d like to lead and the goals you’d like to achieve. Then decide on an attitude or mindset consistent with your values and goals that you will adopt for the day to help you feel more positive and confident. (…) This isn’t just wishful thinking. This is (…) a subtle encouragement to look at opportunities and situations in a better way.

Do you have a morning mantra or a morning ritual to set the day?

5 ways to find time to study

5 ways to find time to study

You have probably heard all the sayings: Leaders are readers. Knowledge is power. The book you don’t read won’t help. And so on.

But you might find it hard to sit down to study after a hard day at work. Maybe you’ve had a long commute too. Maybe you have children in need of food an attention when you get home. There just don’t seem to be any time or energy left to read, study and work on your self-improvement.

At least there won’t be unless you make it a commitment and find ways of incorporating it into your daily life. Here are five ways of making sure you find time to study every single day.

1. Get up half an hour early.
Books have been written about the power of the early morning starts, and some advocate getting up at five in the morning to make the most of the day. However, unless you are already an early bird, I would not recommend that. Instead, set the alarm half an hour earlier than you usually do and spend those thirty minutes studying before the rest of your day start. Don’t be tempted to overstretch by setting the alarm an hour earlier. It takes time to change your body’s daily rythme. If you push yourself too much, you are more likely to give up.

2. Don’t waste your commute
Whether you’re walking, biking, driving or using public transport, make sure you utilize your time on the move to get ahead intellectually as well. Whichever aspect of your life you are trying to approve you are bound to find a podcast or audiobook on the subject. Set your own curriculum for the week each Sunday and dowload a few podcasts or audiobooks to listen to while commuting.

3. Feed your mind at lunch time
Take 15 minutes out of your lunch time to feed your mind as well as your body. You could watch a short TED-talk on your chosen subject while eating at your desk. Or if you need a proper break from the work space, take your lunch and a book to the nearest park and try to get through a chapter before going back to work. If your work consists of mundane tasks, you might find that your brain is processing the information you’ve study during lunch, making the rest of your day at work a little more interesting.

4. Excerise yourself smarter
Michael Hyatt, the CEO turned blogger, has written and talked about how he’s an avid reader, and yet he might not open an actual book for months. Instead he’ll get most of his reading done while running.
I am no runner, but I discovered podcasts and developed a love of walking at the same time. I realized that the only way I would get to listen to the podcasts I wanted, would be to carve out some time outside the house. And so I took up walking, and pretty soon I was taking 45 minutes walks at least five days a week. I’ve become healthier and more informed at the same time.

5. Call it me-time
If you find it hard to open that book you know you ought to read or get through that course you have signed up for, you might need to make a shift in your attitude. Reframe your study time from being a chore to being me-time. Block out half an hour each day that is dedicated to you and your improvement. A good time for this would be after work and the daily chores but before you sit down in front of the telly or collaps in bed. Make your self a non-coffeinated drink, find a quiet corner and get those books out, open that online video course or start listening to that audio book. This is your time, this is how you are going to become the person you know you want to be.

Remember, it’s not enough to want it. You have to do it as well. And it is the small, daily disciplines that will get you to where you want to be. Now go study!

5 ways to get your 5 a day

5 ways to get your 5 a day

Did you get your five-a-day today? I didn’t,due to a poorly planned trip downtown. And I knew that would be the case when I had only consumed one portion by two o’clock. You see, I have come to learn that if I don’t eat at least half – and preferably two thirds – of the recommended five a day by lunch time, I just won’t get there.

So in order to ensure I eat enough of the green stuff, I have set myself a daily goal of having something fresh at every single meal throughout the day. It seems obvious, but for someone who used to love her bread and butter (and I don’t mean that in any figurative way …) it meant a change in how I view my meals and also in the way I shop. My grocey basket has certainly become much more colorful and cheerful since deciding to add fruit, berries or vegetables at every meal.

Berries or banana for breakfast

Add berries for a fresh start to the day.

Get your day going by adding fresh berries or sliced banana to your cereal, oatmeal or overnight porridge. You will benefit from the vitamin C in the berries, which will help your body make better use of the iron in your oats or cereal. And as an added benefit, it will allow you to cut right back on any refined sugar that you would normally add.

This has been a game changer for me. For as long as I can remember I have started my day by having a bowl of rolled oats with milk and a spoonful – or four – of sugar. I would start of with a couple of teaspoons of sugar and then slowly, slowly the amount would increase until I got so ashamed I cut right back. And then the process started all over again … But after I started adding fresh fruit or berries to my breakfast, I no longer have the urge to add the refined sugar in such insane quantaties. I usually settle for half a teaspoon.

Not into oats and cereal? 

– Keep it simple, yet fresh, with a fruit salad and yoghurt.
– Make a frittata with sliced onions and peppers.
– Finely grate a couple of carrots and mixed them in the pancake batter.
– Prefer a full English breakfast? Fry up extra tomatos and swap some of the meat with fried up sliced onions and peppers.

Drink it down!

Green smoothie

Green smoothies became all the rage a few years ago, and for a good reason: it’s a brilliant way of getting your veggies. You see, the 5-a-day recommendation is actually a 3+2-a-day, meaning that at least three of the five portions should be vegetables. I like to make a veggie based smoothie in the late morning. This allows me to have a later lunch, which make the stretch from lunch to dinner more manageable.

If you haven’t made green smoothies before (actually, I don’t care what color you make it, I happily stick carrots and other non-green vegetables in there), then I would recommend that you try the 2+2+3 recipe from SimpleGreenSmoothies. It’s as simple as this: 2 measures of liquid (water) + 2 measures of vegetables + 3 measures of fruit or berries. It is simple to remember and makes for tasty smoothies. Later on you can experiment with the ratios. I tend to do a 2+2+2 these days as I prefer to up my veggie intake.

Can’t stomach vegetable smoothies?

– Have a glass of tomato juice instead.
– Have snackable portions of vegetables easily accessible in the fridge: carrot sticks, cauliflower florets, sugar snaps etc.

Have a salad for lunch

Mixed salad as part of the five-a-day.

One of the best ways of making sure you get enough vegetables is to have a salad for lunch. If you have a busy schedule, you can premake salads for the week in mason jars. But try to get creative about it too so you don’t get bored. You can have a nice, big salad with plenty of tasty and crunch garnish as your main meal. Or you can make a side salad to go with your quiche. Or try a cous cous or lentils based salad. You can even make a salad sandwich: spread a thin layer of mayo on the bottom slice, and add lettuce, sliced tomatos, cucumbers, peppers, and spring onions before adding a slice of bread on top. Add a couple of slices of cheese, egg or chicken for some extra protein to keep you going longer.

Sick of salads? Try this instead:

– Make a vegetable tart you can have for lunch throughout the week.

Guess what? If you had followed these three tips, you would have covered four out of your five-a-day by the end of lunch time. Not bad!

Dish it up for dinner!

Roasted peppers, onions and courgettes.

If you have skipped on any of your portions earlier in the day, now is the time to make up for it. Cram as many vegetables in as you can. As a general rule you want as much color as possible. Avoide beige dinners at all cost.

Swap out the potato (it doesn’t count towards the five-a-day anyway) for roasted vegetables as your go-to side dish. You can easily prep them in advance on a Sunday afternoon if you’re short of time. Or reduce (or even remove) the amount of ground meat you use by adding extra vegetables in the dish. This can easily be done in meals such as lasagna, taco, enchillada, chilies and so on. And then, of course, you have all the glorious vegetable based meals you can make: creamy vegetable soups; various vegetable packed stir frys; gratinated cauliflower or broccoli; spinach pie and so on.

Need more inspiration?

– Use carrots instead of potatos when making hash browns.
– Try stuffed peppers (and make sure you add some extra vegetables in the stuffing too).

Make a dessert of it

fruit sorbet as part of your five-a-day

This is my favorite way of making sure I get my five-a-day! If you are anything like me, you might feel a little peckish at the end of the day. Fruit and berries make a perfect snack, of course, but (unfortunately) I rarely get tempted to put my teeth into an apple when sat in front of the TV. But turn those same fruit and berries into a dessert, and hey, I am game!

Make a simpel fruit salad or fruit skewers for the weekdays; prepare a refreshing sorbet for the summer weekends. Get creative and make a strawberry tart. Or keep it low key: put a handful of berries, a banana, and maybe some yoghurt in the blender and enjoy a thick smoothie to be eaten with a spoon.

Got a sweet tooth?

– Try baked pear with honey or an After Eight on top
– Make a Pavlova, and don’t skimp on the berries.

Overwhelmed? Here’s the simple digest:

Make sure you have a little fruit, berries or vegetables with every meal, and you will be OK.

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