You shall know your ‘shoulds’ and your ‘coulds’ shall set you free


“A verb used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticising someone’s actions.”

It’s a odd moment as a parent when a four year old corrects your table manners. Bill and I were having a debate about something over dinner last night, when Zoë suddenly piped up – with a wry smile on her face – ‘Daddy, you really shouldn’t talk with your mouth full.’

What could he say?
Guilty as charged.

That simple little statement got me thinking though. Because how often is the use of the word ‘should’ connected with feelings of guilt and shame? And not only that, if you look more closely at many of our lives, you’ll find most of us suffer from an acute case of ‘shoulditis.’

Here’s what I mean.

‘I should be more successful at work.’
‘I should weigh X number of pounds.’
‘I should have a super clean home.’
‘I should always look “put together.”
‘I should always say yes whenever people ask me for help’
‘I should be able to balance it all.’
‘I should keep my needs to myself.’
‘I should be more organized.’
‘I should know what they want.’
‘I should always reply when they expect me to.’

Exhausted even reading that list? I know I am!

And that’s because ‘Should’ is like a harsh boss who stands over us, holding us all to unrealistic high standards, and refusing to face the reality that we will never meet them.

What’s even worse is that our lives can be completely choc-a-bloc with ‘shoulds’ without us even realising it, because we don’t often say these kinds of things out loud. In fact, we often don’t know they are there at all, because they operate as a inner dialogue that we have with ourselves during the day, rather than in actual conversation with other people.

You shall know your ‘shoulds’ •

What are your ‘shoulds?’

Your ‘shoulds’ are the things you feel you must do. They are the criticisms you (or people you know) make about your attitudes and behaviour.

Often we have no idea where they come from, and never even question their validity. They rarely generate positive action and their negativity drains us of motivation and energy. But yet they drive much of what we do.

Let me share an example.

I don’t know how many times I’ve not been feeling well, but pushed myself to attend an event because I felt I ‘should’ go. And I don’t know how many times by doing so I’ve not only not enjoyed the night, but made my sickness worse in the process.

What made me push myself to go? When I really got down to it, this was my thinking behind the ‘should:’

‘I should attend that event, because if I don’t go, I’ll let people down and they will think I’m unreliable.’

Really? Would they? Or would they understand that illness is not something we could have predicted? Does it really matter what they think as long as your own integrity is intact?

• Your ‘coulds’ will set you free!

Let me suggest something a bit radical. What would happen if I tried replacing some of my ‘shoulds’ with ‘coulds?

I could attend that event, because it would make my friends happy, or I could
leave it tonight, because I’m exhausted and not feeling well.

When I frame it like that, it makes better sense not to go, doesn’t it?

‘I could’ is so much more empowering than ‘I should,’ because it emphasises the pros and cons of a choice rather than the guilt that accompanies a sense of real or imagined unfulfilled obligation.

In other words, while ‘should’ doesn’t allow me to make mistakes, ‘could’ helps me to understand that I am human.

• How to break free from your ‘shoulds’ •

1. Each time you realise you are being hard on yourself, write down the ‘should’ statement behind it.

2. Ask yourself, ‘Who says?’ What great authority says I should do this thing? And why? What evidence supports it and what doesn’t? If your ‘should’ is rooted in Truth (which for Christians, we find in the Bible) then absolutely go for it. If it’s not, it needs to go!

3. Rewrite your ‘should’ sentence with the world ‘could’ and see what options open to to you.

4. Choose any ‘coulds’ actually worth taking action on – then replace them with ‘I wills’. Positive actions at the ready!

You won’t believe the clarity and freedom this will bring you. I’ve been practising over the last few months and seen the difference already.

A life of ‘shoulds’ is full of clouds but a life of coulds is full of clear blue skies.

You shall know your ‘shoulds,’ and your ‘coulds’ will set you free. Try it and see!

H xx

The day I fell out of a tree: moving on from past wounds

When I was seven, I looked a little bit like a blond version of Mowgli from the ‘Jungle Book.’ Scrawny frame, all arms and legs, and a straight bob that swung from side to side as I walked. 

And it suited me, because true to having grown up in the African bush, I was a little wild. I loved lizards and spiders and grasshoppers and frogs. At boarding school, I spent my time making mud pies, skidding across the shower room floor, and making forts out of bamboo shoots. Every year, at the first smell of rain that marked the end of the dry season, I was one of the first to dash out to the football pitches, arms raised in expectancy, dancing in celebration as the deluge that came shortly after soaked us all to the skin.  

But most of all, I loved climbing trees. One afternoon at boarding school, I was with a group of boys who were trying to outdo each other by swinging between the branches of a little grove of guava trees.

Now if you know me at all, you’ll know I’m not one to succumb to peer pressure. It’s just pure stubbornness on my part really. But on that day, I remember the feeling as they began to taunt me, saying I was too ‘chicken’ to join in. And so began a brief moment of madness. I just had to prove my worth. It felt a little like Anne of Green Gables walking across the apex of a roof to prove to Gilbert Blythe that she was ‘every bit as brave as a boy.’

But as with poor Anne, who soon came down from the roof with a bump, pride came before a fall. Guava trees have bark that peels off all too easily. As I jumped from the first branch and clung to the next, I came right off it, with the piece of bark in my hand. Before I knew it, I was lying on the ground, feeling pain that I’d never felt. 

Then followed a eight hour car drive to hospital, over roads with more pot holes than tarmac. I had been climbing since I was six months and had never once fallen until that day, but on that journey I subconsciously decided I would never climb a tree again. I had back problems for years – all stemming from the shoulder fracture I sustained that day. It wasn’t until after an X-ray in my twenties and three intense months of Chiropractic treatment that all was put to rights.

But that wasn’t the worst part – for years I missed out on what I loved best because of the fear of experiencing that awful pain again. A little of the daring and wild in me was lost that day.

Can you look back to a time in your life when a painful event opened a wound that has never quite closed? Maybe it was a conflict at home, a disappointing church experience, a shaming experience as a child, sudden bereavement, unexpected surgery, or a moment of betrayal. Perhaps as a result you have subconsciously withdrawn from people, put up walls around your heart, or stopped doing the things that used to give you life and joy. 

Maybe now’s the time for a heart x-ray. Ask yourself what’s holding you back from going there again. Get whatever treatment you need. Face the fear, let go of the hurt, resolve the disagreement, step out of the shadow of shame, or open up your heart. Don’t let the fear of what might be stop you from experiencing what could be. Find your inner Mowgli again. Start dreaming, start climbing, start learning, start talking again. There are plenty of trees left to climb, and this time there may not be a crowd of boys teasing you.

H x 

Living a #nofilter life: who are we when no one is watching?

Kids have a way of humbling you in front of other people, don’t they? Parents never forget some of those red-faced moments. Like the time when Zoë told someone I barely knew that, ‘Every time mummy gets on the scales she is heavier,’ or blurted out to a crèche volunteer, ‘You couldn’t go anywhere near our car, it’s full of dirt.’ Both statements were true at the time, of course, but definitely not truths I wanted all to hear!

It’s well-known that young children have no filter. Filtering our thoughts and opinions before we say them out loud is something we learn to do as we grow up. Not enough sometimes; a little too well other times. Yet just as we learn to hold back comments that might hurt people as we get older, somehow at the same time we become accustomed to hiding much of our true selves from those around us.

Bill and I watched ‘The Social Dilemma’ recently. It’s a documentary about the how social media manipulates human psychology – including how using it contributes to poor self esteem, anxiety and depression. I tell you, it was pretty concerning, as well as thought-provoking.

One of the problems with social media for mental health is the pressure to present our best selves online. The best of our pictures, angles, memories, family activities – you name it. Let’s be honest – it’s tempting for all of us to present the world with an unrealistic picture of what we look and live like.

But when you’re living a ‘filtered’ life, how much of yourself are you actually letting people see? Who are you when no one is looking? And how much of a difference is there between the two? Everyone has struggles, problems, flaws, hurts and insecurities. We don’t need to share them all with the world, but neither should we pretend we have it all together!

And here’s why:

We are made to be ‘instruments’ not ‘ornaments’

True impact only comes when our motivation is to become an instrument for others’ flourishing, instead of just an ornament for their admiration.

Think about it; if our public persona only ever includes idyllic family photos, sparkling surfaces, glamorous achievements and flawless complexions, what effect does this have on those looking on? They may admire us, but is the person they are admiring even real? And are we impacting them for good, or simply perpetuating a destructive cycle of comparison and inauthenticity?

Some of the most impactful people on social media are those who began their journey seeking to encourage, to comfort and to build others up by bringing a bit of reality to online platforms.

Take Kristina Kuzmik, for instance. After moving to America from a war-torn Croatia and facing divorce, single-parenting, poverty and depression, she found herself wanting to provide the support for others she so desperately needed during those challenges. She’s now a worldwide icon of real-life motherhood; but she has never strayed from her core motivation: to be an instrument of encouragement.

So a good question to ask ourselves before we post something online might be, ‘Is this purely ornamental, or could it impact someone for good?’ If it’s more often the former than the latter, we may need to click the #unfilter button for a time.

We are made for connection above impression

I have never felt more deeply connected to my husband than after I had major surgery. It was far from glamorous for us both, I can tell you. On one level, I found the vulnerability of not being able to shower myself or dry my own hair really difficult; but on another, it was deeply intimate and precious. As I learned to receive support from him in my helplessness, we bonded on a richer level than ever before.

When you sacrifice your desire to make a great impression and replace that with true connection, nothing can replace the level of relationship you get to have with people. When you allow them into the unvarnished world of you – with all your fears and flaws – and they still choose to love you and draw close, it’s the most beautiful thing. Think about it, if people – even your family – think you’re self-sufficient, you only ever give them the opportunity to love you from a distance.

I love my friends who are open about when they get it wrong. Shared stories about parenting fails, work blunders, and relational mistakes bring us closer together. I want to spend time with them, because there’s not this pressure to have it all together. It’s comfortable. It’s natural. It’s deep. It’s liberating.

Connection always involves vulnerability. It’s not comfortable, and it can result in hurt if you are rejected as a result of being yourself. But we owe it to others, and we owe it to ourselves not to pretend. What’s the point in being loved, if you’re being loved for something you are not? But when you’re loved exactly as you are, and you seek to do the same for others – now that’s something truly special.

We are made for service, not self-promotion

One of the questions I love to hear my work colleagues ask is, ‘How can we better serve our users?’ It may be hard to believe, but they actually mean it. That really is their primary focus. And when that’s the pervasive attitude in a company, any marketing strategy becomes more about benefitting the people they are reaching, than earning prestige or acclaim.

What a rare ethos in a world that is so often too interested in getting ahead! It’s counter-cultural, but incredibly powerful. And it’s the way we are supposed to live. Consider the fact that the Creator of the universe chose to come to us as a humble servant. Paul tells us in Philippians to ‘Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.’ And as John Maxwell says, “The best place for a leader isn’t always the top position. It isn’t the most prominent or powerful place. It’s the place where he or she can serve the best and add the most value to other people.”

What would happen if we focused less on the amount of likes we get, and more on the value we could add to others’ lives? How would our ‘timelines’ look? What would we post about? What filters would we remove?

Maybe we can redeem the ‘social media dilemma’ after all – if we choose to ditch superficial edits and live a #nofilter life. If we seek to become an instrument of healing over an ornament for admiration. If we invest more in unvarnished connection than we do in maintaining a good impression. If we spend more time in service than in self-promotion.

The question is not ‘can we?’ – but ‘will we?’

H x

Store it up for a rainy day: The power of encouragement

We all have those days, don’t we? You wake up on the wrong side of the bed, it’s pouring with rain outside, and before you know it you’re in tears over a comment that wasn’t badly meant but just hit you in the wrong place.

❌ Days when you feel unappreciated or taken for granted.

❌ Days when you are swamped by a loss of enthusiasm and courage.

❌ Days when you find it hard to distance yourself from negativity.

But then there are the moments that make you realise your perspective is all wrong and your focus needs to shift. And have you noticed that words are often pivotal for turning things around? Kind thoughts expressed verbally can make all the difference to a weary heart.

I’m forever trying to get my two girls to tidy up after themselves (if you’ve achieved this in your family, please share your secrets with me!)

Yesterday was one of those days. I heard Bill threatening the kids upstairs about their bomb site of a bedroom, and I smiled as I remembered one afternoon when – after I had tidied up the living room for the tenth time – Zoë took my hands in hers, looked me right in the eyes, and said genuinely and empathetically – ‘Mummy, I think I finally understand. You always clean up for us, and it’s a really hard job to do all on your own. You just want someone to do it with you.’

I couldn’t stop the tears welling up in that moment. 

‘Yes!’ I thought. ‘You actually get it! You may not care at all by tomorrow, but you do understand today.’

Somehow things didn’t seem quite so gloomy after that.

My dad emailed me a lovely note a while back. He’d watched a talk I did online, and he took the time to write me a few lines on how great he thought it was. 

And you know what words struck home the most? ‘I. Am. Proud. Of. You.’

Why did they touch me so deeply? Not just because my primary love language is words of affirmation – because they came from someone whose opinion really matters to me.

Another day, Bill and I were chatting about how he’s constantly trying to improve things and he suddenly came out with this: ‘You know, I couldn’t improve you, even if I tried. I wouldn’t ever want to change you.’

That was the ultimate compliment. The crème de la crème of encouragements. I’ll treasure it forever. Why? Because although Bill is constantly drawn to improve things, and he knows me better than anyone, he appreciates me just as I am (asides from the way I serve cereal, and butter toast, and lose car keys, that is … 😂)

Still, intentionally gathering up these moments in the same place and saving them for a stormy time is a powerful way to defeat discouragement.

My Dad used to say when he got a nice letter or sentiment on a card, ‘I’ll put that in my encouragement file.’ And he did – a literal file that every so often, on the hard days, he’d open and read through to lift his spirits.

So I have an encouragement file now too. It helps to remind me that there’s always a silver lining in a depressing black cloud. Recent research suggests that because our brains are hardwired to focus in on the negative, we need five positive comments per one criticism to perform at our best.

But the good news is that we can re-new our minds by fixing our thoughts on what is ‘true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable’ – by thinking about ‘things that are excellent and worthy of praise’ (Philippians 4:8). Sometimes we need to train ourselves how to focus on the good in order to grow gratitude and beat despondency in our hearts.

My manager at work is brilliant at this. She’s got such a positive outlook on life and people, and quite often she will end her work emails with, ‘Appreciate you.’ What a difference that simple phrase makes!

So when you find yourself feeling down in the doldrums, open your encouragement file. Whether it’s a journal, a ringbinder, a desktop folder, notes on your iPhone, a designated email account, or a collection of recorded voice memos – relive those golden moments, thank yous and affirming words in a place where they can’t be washed away by rainy weather.

My encouragement file not only lifts my spirits, it reminds me to stop and acknowledge those who otherwise I could easily take for granted. It prompts me to appreciate those in my life who are with me through thick and thin.

Let today be the day you speak only the good you know of other people and motivate others to do the same. We all have the power to lift a loved one up when they’re having a bad day. Use it!

H x

When Good Enough is Perfectly Good Enough

The first twenty months of my firstborn’s life lulled the self-confessed perfectionist in me into a false sense of security.

After a relatively textbook labour (still grim, mind you – what birth isn’t?) I was so grateful to meet my little Zoë – a little rainbow baby after the loss of our first child through ectopic pregnancy. Zoë’s name means ‘the life God gives,’ and I felt so privileged to have been given this little gift that I determined I would work as hard as I possibly could to give her the best start in life.

Many of those early days and long nights were spent lounged on the sofa feeding, watching Netflix series as my selfless hubby brought me countless glasses of water and plates of food. I cuddled my baby as often as I could; sang nursery rhymes to her every every morning; taught her colours, words and letters with great enthusiasm; took endless photographs; and tenaciously noted down every milestone reached.

Don’t get me wrong, it definitely wasn’t some kind of Mother Earth Eutopia. I had lip-curling moments of pain, months of sleep deprivation and plenty of times when I felt down or overwhelmed. But all in all, I really enjoyed those first months of being a mum, and I thought, ‘maybe I really am up to this challenge.’

Then our precious little Eden came along, and instead of the peaceful paradise her name would suggest, all too soon my life descended into the chaos of motherhood I had heard about from others.

An unfortunate chain of events began when I became ill with a chest infection after labour, followed by a full year of sickness within the family. There were hospital stays, collapses from physical exhaustion, and weeks of isolation – all undergirded by a horrible sense of guilt that I just didn’t have the energy to lavish the same one-on-one attention upon Eden that I had been able to give first time around.

Feeding on demand alongside an equally demanding toddler pushed my already struggling body to its absolute limit. Then came several months of high anxiety; fears of what would happen when the next illness came along, horrible premonitions of tragedy, topped off by a real loss of confidence.

For the first time ever, I felt completely incapable of holding all my responsibilities together. I struggled when things didn’t go to plan and I had to rearrange and cancel appointments. It had been a long time since I felt I was truly doing a great job.

Over the period of a few months – with lots of prayer and encouragement from loving family, friends and mentors – I came to realise something totally life-changing: ‘good enough’ is actually perfectly good enough. Because while I was constantly worrying about how I was ‘doing’ at parenthood, I was missing the moments right in front of me to be savoured, treasured and enjoyed.

Now, I am so thankful that things are different. Not perfect at all, mind you, but rather perfectly good enough.

Yes, I may be a mum who is frequently late to the school gate, muttering muted threats under her breath of ‘… if you don’t … I will …’

Yes, I may often be seen frantically chasing my eldest, pulling her frizzy golden locks into a half-hearted ponytail, with the little one clinging onto my coat tails to avoid being left behind.

Yes, I may often be seen in my street red-faced from embarrassment, as I yell out my front door (again) at my children who are running around my front lawn in their pyjamas.

Yes – pretending not to notice the smirks of surrounding eyewitnesses at the shopping centre – I do wrestle a protesting daughter number 2 back into her car seat, flop into the driver’s position, take a few breaths, let out a dramatic sigh, and trundle off pathetically to McDonalds drive thru for a coffee – to ‘recover’ from the whole debacle.

And yet, I have the absolute privilege to be around everyday for my children, to take them for outings and adventures, and to soak up their shining smiles when they catch sight of me after I’ve been at work for a few hours. Understanding that for both of them, just being present and loving consistently is more than ‘good enough’ and so it should, in turn, be ‘perfect’ for me, has changed everything.

And do you know what the most encouraging thing is? This recovering perfectionist is now increasingly able to laugh at herself when things go wrong, embrace the beauty of the moment for what it is, and be thankful in the midst of it.

Can you?

Maybe, just maybe, today you need to hear that you are ‘good enough’, and that – all things considered – you are quite simply ‘perfect’ for the family and friends God has gifted you with.

The power of the One

They call him the ‘Australian angel.’

He was the man who lived beside ‘The Gap’ – a natural beauty spot where lots of people attempt suicide every day.

For over 50 years, Don Ritchie watched through his window for troubled souls, then came close to meet them at the point of their need.

Standing at the edge of the cliff, deliberating whether or not to end it all, many a hopeless individual heard softly-spoken words from this compassionate stranger, ‘Why don’t you come for a cup of tea?’

Seemingly insignificant words, but since 1964 they have saved at least 160 lost souls from the precipice of death.

Wow! What a legacy, and what a reminder of the power of one. The power of one to impact one life, after life, after life.

Have you ever doubted that your life could make a difference?

It may be time to start believing differently.

It can be so tempting sometimes to focus on numbers; likes on Facebook, attendance and crowds. But what about the ‘ones,’ and the ‘ones’ those ‘ones’ will impact?

Someone once gave me a word of encouragement that has never left me.

They said, ‘The impact of your life is a bit like walking along the seashore across the sand, picking up shells as you go. Those shells you lift along the way represent the lives you have touched. Before you know it, you’ve walked the length of the beach. A little love each day can go a very long way.

Sometimes we can expend so much energy into thinking about how we could make a big difference; but in so doing we miss the small daily differences, which over time, add up to big ones.

Who are we standing in ‘the Gap’ for? Which ‘ones’ can we look out for and love? Who do you know that is on the edge of breakdown, or financial ruin, or discouragement?

And if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, remember you serve in the power of the greatest One to ever live, love, serve and save.

🌱One Rescuer

🌱One cross

🌱One empty tomb

🌱One victory

🌱One salvation

Jesus was the only One who could ever stand in the Gap for all of humanity, forever.

Never forget the power of the One to change the world. Start with the ‘One’ right in front of you, and see where it leads you!

H x

Will the next six weeks be a tunnel to get through or a bridge to a better you?

There’s light at the end of the tunnel.’

We hear this phrase all the time, and I’ve found myself saying it too often over these last few months. ‘When this is all over, I will…’ ‘When things get back to normal, we’ll do …’

I’m fast coming to the conclusion that I’ve been thinking about this all wrong.

In his leadership podcast – ‘Developing the leader within you’ – John Maxwell explains how, when we are in the midst of a struggle, we can either adopt either bridge thinking or tunnel vision.

When you’re crossing over to something new, enjoying the scenery as you travel, you’re on a bridge.

When you’re going through something, willing it to eventually end, you’re in a tunnel.

In other words, there’s a difference between going TO something and going THROUGH something.

Trials shape us, there’s no doubt. They change our perspective, our attitudes to people, our philosophies for life.

But many of us falsely believe that we have no control over how our circumstances impact us. In fact, the opposite is true. The attitude we adopt towards difficulties has a massive influence over what we learn from them and accomplish through them.

How so?

The bridge

Well, on a bridge there’s a view. There’s beauty. There’s open space and a higher vantage point to see ahead. When you see the trial as a bridge, you gain greater perspective on where you’re coming from, and where you’re going to. Your focus is on your destination, but you’ll still benefit from the journey.

If we can think about this time as a bridge to perseverance, creativity, self-care, innovation and learning; if we can view it as an opportunity to cultivate patience, better attitudes and more love for others – who knows how beautiful our lives could look by the time we get to our destination?

The tunnel

In contrast, in a tunnel all we can see is darkness, until we come out the other side. If we view this time of restrictions with tunnel vision, we may well eventually come out into the light, but we will emerge groggy and bleary eyed.

Inside a tunnel, it’s challenging to think about anything but yourself, and it’s hard to keep outward looking and others-focused. At the end of a tunnel, you might be relieved, exhausted, dazed or gasping for air. But you definitely won’t be invigorated or have the energy to love and serve others as you otherwise could.

Crossing over

Yes, it feels like we are crossing over from an old ‘normal’ to a new, somewhat daunting way of living. Waves of grief come with that process. It’s only natural.

But if we’re not careful, this whole thing will become a tunnel, and we will miss all that we can learn during the transition.

Let’s not be tunnel people and become so preoccupied with the darkness that we will miss what can be learned, what can be cultivated, what can be enjoyed along the way.

Let’s see this time as a bridge – a bridge to making us better – better at learning patience, better at loving others, and better at living life to the full.

H x

New year, new pyjamas, new you

About fifteen years ago, my ever generous mum-in-law gave me a pair of pyjamas (*incredible to think she was my boyfriend’s mum then – I loved her then, and now more than ever.*) They were the most comfortable pair of ‘jammies’ I have ever owned. But they were also leopard print, fleecy, garish and shapeless (see feature photo for close up😊). I was sceptical at first about how they looked, I’ll admit. But from the moment I put them on, I knew me and those pjs were in for the long haul. I LOVED them.

Year after year, regardless of how many new pairs friends bought me for Christmas, how many times Bill pleaded with me to throw them out, and regardless of how unattractive they looked, I just could not say goodbye to these pjs. They were comfort personified. They held memories of girlie sleepovers, movie nights, cosy days by the fire, and chaotic weeks in the house with newborn babies – all rolled into one.

Then this Christmas, something stirred within me out of the blue (or maybe it was the lovely royal blue tracksuit Bill bought me this year.) 😆

Either way, somehow I knew it was time to finally let my favourite old pjs go.

And in a way, 2020 – with all its change and uncertainty – has forced each one of us to let certain things go. It’s stirred something in all of us. It’s made us uncomfortably and consciously aware of all the luxuries we relied on year after year. It’s sharpened the edges of our comfort zones, exposed our garish indulgences, and reminded us of a sentimental desire to hold on to things that just make us feel good.

But maybe it’s time to embrace the new blue tracksuit of life and accept that things just aren’t the same anymore. To explore the new places there are to run. To understand that, for now at least, less is the new more; missing out is the new chilling out; that emptier calendars can lead to fuller minds and souls, if we so choose.

So, as I don my new (hopefully) more attractive tracksuit and finally say goodbye to those old pjs, perhaps I’ll be able to recognise the treasured memories wrapped up in what was, while at the same time putting my bravest, best (and potentially fittest) foot forward for what’s to come.

2020, we choose let go all that we need to let go of; and 2021, we choose to ‘wear’ you with all the dignity, energy and courage we can muster!!

H x

What does your pet peeve say about you?

I was at a wonderful online course last week called ‘The Boundaried Life’ by Katherine Purcell – check her out at KP therapy on Instagram; she’s got so much wisdom to bring! The whole evening was full of gems to live your life by, but one principle she shared really stuck with me.

Your pet peeves point to your core values.

Let me explain. Often when we find ourselves saying yes to things we don’t actually want to say yes to, it’s because we don’t have a strong sense of our core values.

Many of us never take time to think about the principles that actually motivate our choices and decisions. But when we find ourselves burnt out it can sometimes be because:

1) We’ve never reflected on what should be guiding our decisions, or

2) We are struggling to balance the inward tugging of two or more things that we really value.

So here’s how it might look.

One of my biggest peeves is laziness, which points to how much I value productivity. Problem is, one of my other core values is meaningful relationships. So sometimes my desire to be productive in tasks conflicts with my desire to spend time with the people I love. At Christmas, I really enjoy making little gifts for the wonderful people in my life, but sometimes I get so busy doing that, my quality time with those very people is affected. The answer? Simplify, or start putting together presents much earlier. (I Haven’t quite mastered this tension yet, by the way 😂)

How about you?

😡 Maybe your pet peeve is rudeness, in which case one of your highest values is respect.

😡 Or, if you detest snobbery, you may well cherish equality.

😡 If you don’t like people who break the rules, perhaps you really value structures and authority.

😡 If you really struggle when people are distracted by their phones, you may well esteem quality time above a lot of other things.

😡 If undone dishes, disorganised drawers etc really stress you out, you are a person who thrives on order, and is in tune with their environment.

😡 If you can’t condone lack of initiative, you prize self-motivation and taking the lead.

What do your pet peeves say about you? How can you avoid getting frustrated and burnt out?

Maybe you could think about what your core values are and how they could affect what you choose to say yes to in the future.

Or perhaps you could brainstorm new ways to balance out things that are important to you in your life.

H x

When you’re asking yourself if you’re making a difference, remember that the tip of the iceberg is all you see

Have you ever wondered, ‘Is what I’m doing making any difference whatsoever?’

Maybe you’re a parent trying to extract yet more endless patience from somewhere inside you. You find yourself guiltily longing for someone – anyone – to acknowledge the sacrifices you willingly make every hour, on the hour. In those moments, you don’t see the well-rounded adults your children could become as a result of your long-suffering.

Or, perhaps you’re working super hard at your job and you feel unappreciated and undervalued. You’re ploughing through endless amounts, but you feel like what you do isn’t making a tangible difference to others. All you seem to be getting back are problems and complaints. You don’t see the customers whose day you make brighter with your smile; the colleague who needed your kindness that day; or the manager who is secretly inspired by your work ethic.

It could be that you’re a teacher who invests huge amounts of time, emotions and creativity with seemingly very little appreciation in return. You’re pouring out day after day, but you feel taken for granted. You don’t see how instrumental your efforts are to the confidence those kiddies will have when they grow up.

Maybe you feel discouraged by the lack of ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ you receive on social media platforms. You feel unpopular and unnoticed. But you don’t see the person who was feeling stressed out and low until they read your post, or listened to that encouragement you put out there.

Let me encourage you today never to measure the fruit of your labours or the impact of your life only by what you see.

Because what you see is only the tip of the iceberg.

I had an experience recently which was weird and encouraging all at the same time. I’d written a poem and had messaged it to a WhatsApp group I was part of. A few days later I got a message from someone saying – ‘A friend from Scotland sent me this; it really encouraged me; I hope it encourages you too.’ I read the message, only to find out that it was, in fact, my own poem. Bizarre! I never would have found out it had been shared all around the country if this lady had not sent it on to me, not knowing I had written it.

This funny coincidence taught me something important. We will never know the true extent of how our lives impact others. This shouldn’t prevent us from continuing to pour ourselves out – on the contrary – it makes it all the more important to keep doing those seemingly insignificant things to bless others, because cumulatively they make an immeasurable difference.

I was thinking this week in particular about the influence teachers and leaders have over our lives.

🍎 I still remember my P1 teacher’s smile. It made me feel like she was happy to see me. It made me feel like I was loveable!

✏️ Then there was my wonderful English teacher at secondary school, who impacted me forever when she identified a gift for writing in me and encouraged me to pursue it. Her affirmation was a huge part of me having the confidence to step out and do it.

🍔 I’m also forever grateful to one youth leader in particular, who drove me to youth group every Sunday night for seven years, and sat with all of us in McDonald’s afterwards. He showed me commitment and practical love by example. Cumulatively, He modelled what it was like to walk through life with someone and watch them grow.

👱🏻👨🏻‍🦰 Or my mum and dad, whose effervescent wisdom has led me through so many complex and difficult situations in my life. I take their principles and values with me everywhere I go.

What an investment! You can’t express it, encapsulate it or define it. It’s immeasurable, unquantifiable, incalculable. It’s the shaping and forming and moulding of the life of another, through the little loving and selfless things you do everyday – consistently and generously.

Often you’ll not find out about how these seemingly insignificant acts made a difference until much later, and sometimes never.

And remember, for every one positive message you have received, there are many that you didn’t, and many people whose lives have been powerfully influenced by your presence.

So, whether your invest your energies, encouragements and investments in:

📚 life-long learning

💖 contagious kindness

👧 positive self image

👊 hope in despair

💷 Relief to poverty

💪 endurance in weariness

… keep going! You may not see all the results, but Van Gogh couldn’t have dreamed how the world would be enriched by his paintings 🖼, Beethoven couldn’t have envisaged how people all over the globe would be soothed by his sonatas 🎶; and Anne Frank never imagined how many people would read her diary 📔.

They only saw the tip of the iceberg, and so do we.

Let’s live with the great expanse under the water in mind.