Sunday, 28 July 2013

My manifesto for living a happy life

By Nila Sweeney

I give up craving for approval, knowing that those who give it can also take it away on a whim. By placing my self-worth and happiness at the mercy of others, I became unnecessarily needy and despondent when I don’t get my fix.

I know now that the only way I can truly be happy is to do the things that I love and that makes a difference to others. I shall no longer be a hostage to other people's opinions.

I give up being a coward, knowing that I am stronger than I give myself credit for. Being afraid of taking chances has cost me some of the biggest misses in my life. I’ve wasted precious time that I can never take back and opportunities that may not be repeated due to my cowardice.  

Having survived the things that I went through earlier in life, I know I have what it takes to thrive. It’s now time to liberate myself from the self-limiting fear and open myself to life and everything it offers.

I give up being a perfectionist, knowing that making mistakes is a part of being human and the best way to learn life’s lessons.

By being a perfectionist, I've alienated even my closest allies due to my unreasonable demands. I realised I've only been seeing what’s wrong and never what’s done right. It’s time for me to start appreciating people even more.

I give up being judgemental, knowing that I, too, have many flaws. Being judgemental has made me suspicious and distrustful of others. It also gave me permission to blame them for being the way they are.

People don't get any chance with me when I’m judgemental. Even before they make the first move, I’ve already diminished their worth in my head, justifying my choice of avoiding them altogether.

Therefore, I shall stop judging people, and instead spend time getting to know them on a deeper level. I know I would be pleasantly surprised with what I discover. 

I give up procrastinating, knowing that I am wasting precious time and not accomplishing the things I set out to do. If I’m really honest about it, I’m procrastinating because I’m afraid to take action. It’s time to let go of my excuses and start acting. The time for procrastination is over. It's time to take that leap.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

How to find inner strength

By Nila Sweeney

Do you sometimes wonder how you've managed to face and handle tough situations in the past? Those times when you thought you’ve finally able to regain your footing; another wave of failure or losses knocks you down all over again?

I’ve been thinking about those myself, especially at times when my confidence is taking relentless battering from the problems that’s been coming in rapid succession.

Yet when I look back at my past troubles and then look at my current predicament, I'm amazed at how resilient I've been. No matter how difficult the situation was, I’ve always managed to pull myself out of the hole.

Each time I was about to reach my breaking point, I somehow got handed in a new lease of life, a hope and incredible inner strength that enabled me to bounce back.

Experts believe that some people have a natural predisposition to resilience and are able to bounce back from traumatic or difficult situations without trouble, while some people simply fold and crumble.

I believe anyone can cultivate resilience with a bit of effort. Here are the things that helped me develop inner strength and how it may help you too.

Nurture supportive relationship at home and at work.
Being nurtured by caring people makes you stronger, there’s no doubt about this. No matter how tough things get when you know you can count on someone for their unconditional support, you become more confident to face any challenges that come your way.

Let go of your need to control events.
Equanimity enables you to regain your footing during turbulent times. It’s a refuge or an island where you can rest and find stability.

Accept that some problems are outside your control. What you can control is the way you react and handle these situations. Focus in managing your thoughts, actions and habits. These will help you better deal with any adversity.

Face your problem squarely.
Avoiding the problem will only delay the inevitable fall out. It's better to confront the issue sooner than later so you can move on. Take stock of the situation and then take positive action.

A well-known Indian poet sums this up nicely in a beautiful prayer.

"Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
But be fearless in facing them.

Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain,
But for the heart to conquer it.

Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved,
But hope for the patience to win my freedom."
-Dr. Rabindranath Tagore 

Trust yourself.
When faced with seemingly endless litany of woes, we sometimes forget that we do have the mental, emotional and physical faculties to deal with these challenges.

We sometimes allow ourselves to be complacent, maybe even arrogant in maintaining a sense of entitlement. “Why should I have to deal with these issues?” “I deserve better!”

The thing is, when you adopt this line of thinking, you often end up suffering unnecessarily and unable to find a workable solution to your predicament.  As a result, you’d be stuck in the fall out.

You’re stronger than you think. You’ve been here before and you have the mental and emotional toughness to face this crisis. You just have to trust yourself. 

Be humble.
Humility enables you to see and admit to your role in this crisis. It helps you learn from your mistakes and enables you to focus on the positive steps you need to take to improve your situation.

Let go of the drama.
Sometimes we make things more difficult than they really are because we love drama. We tend to magnify the damage and blow it out of proportion either to elicit sympathy or just want to punish ourselves. When we let go of the drama and approach the problem as it is, we’ll be able to handle the situation better and find an appropriate solution.

Embrace change.
Everything is in a state of flux and nothing stands still. This means that no matter how difficult your current situation is, it won’t stay that way forever. It will get better.

Change is scary and uncomfortable, but it also brings possibilities and endless potential. No matter how difficult it can be at the start, trust in yourself that you will adapt and you will thrive.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

How to snap out of negative mindset quick

“You become what you think about all day long.”  Earn Nightingale

I just had one of those days. You know the ones when nothing seems to be working? When everything you touch breaks and all the problems in the world seem to drop in your lap in one giant heap? Yes, I had one of those days today.

At times like these, it would be so easy to succumb to pointless wallowing in self-pity, thinking that I have the worst situation in the whole world. It would be normal for me to engage in futile ruminations of the things I could have done, should have done and would have done, knowing fully well that I could not undo the past. 

But not today. Admittedly, I allowed myself to indulge, albeit briefly, in this negative mindset today. But as soon as I started seeing the warning signs: I'm unable to focus, I'm getting increasingly irritable and starting to breathe erratically, I knew I had to snap out of the funk. 

It’s all too easy to get carried away by the negativity when you’re facing a difficult situation such as losing your home due to financial difficulties. Or when the love of your life cheated on you and left you for someone else. You may feel depressed and helpless when you've lost your life-saving to someone who took advantage of your trust. At times like these, it may seem impossible to dig yourself out of the slump.

The good news is, we can snap ourselves out of this negative state quicker than you realise. Here’s how I get out of the funk quick and how you can do it too.

1. Find something that makes you laugh, real belly laugh. 

There are millions of websites dedicated to humour and funny posts dominate Facebook. Allow yourself a few moments to enjoy something funny. Laugh hard. Laughter immediately helps in diffusing the negative energy and floods your body with endorphin. 

Yes, I know it’s hard to laugh when you’re suffering, but keep trying. Before you know it, you’d be laughing uncontrollably, probably at the silliness of taking yourself and situation too seriously.

2. Notice the stories that you're telling yourself as you try to deal with your problems. 

Are you blaming yourself? Are you berating yourself for being ‘weak, stupid and lazy’ for allowing this problem to happen?

All too often, we judge ourselves harshly compared to others. We beat ourselves up and subject ourselves to endless torture because we think we're not good enough and therefore don't deserve to be happy.

Realise that these are just stories. You made them up and therefore, you have the ability to un-make them. You can stop and change the story line altogether. 

You are not weak or stupid. You may have made the wrong decision, but this is not a proof you are not smart enough. 

3. Look for things to be grateful about. 

When we’re facing a multitude of problems, it may be difficult to see the bright side. But they are there if you look hard enough.

You can be grateful for the fact that you’re in good health and living near the people you love. You can be thankful to live in a country where you can enjoy peace and freedom. Despite your current problems, you still enjoy the good fortune of earning more than enough to live on. You have a roof over your head and food on the table. 

You can even be grateful for the problems you are now experiencing. Without these challenges, we cannot grow as people. It makes us stronger and wiser. 

Here’s a beautiful poem I turn for inspiration when I’m facing a difficult situation.

Be thankful

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitation
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.

Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.
~ Author Unknown ~

Remember that no one is hopelessly condemned to eternal misery, unless you allow yourself to be. There’s always a way out of the problems we face in this life. It may not be readily apparent today, but troubles will soon pass. And you smile again.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

How to ensure you finish what you started no matter how much you want to quit

Struggling to finish what you started? These tips might help.

By Nila Sweeney

I’ve been known to start off big on projects, lose interest halfway and rarely get to finish what I started. Indeed, I’ve been known to peak too soon.

Things changed when I started using these two exceedingly simple yet practical strategies. Each time I’m stuck on a project or starting to lose enthusiasm, I tap into these two simple steps. They work every time. You may want to give it a try too.

Start small and recognise your small victories

I know you’ve known this all along. But admit it or not, we tend to bite more than we could chew when we embark on a project.

We want to escape the part where we’re not amazing yet so we go full on in the beginning so that we can be amazing already. The predictable outcome is the we lose interest when things don't go according to plan.

By starting small and setting ourselves smaller goals that we can measure, we’re able to see and track our progress.

Sometimes it’s not always easy to spot or recognise our victories because we’ve got in our heads that success has to be earth-shattering and anything less would not be worth celebrating.

That’s why a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs quit half-way down the road because they feel they’re not achieving their goals fast enough or as fast as the others, even though they have already made significant progress.

But success also comes from our triumph over small things that accumulate over time. It’s about getting better at the things we set out to do each time. It’s a result of taking action, a step, no matter how small, to bring us closer to our goal.

The power of starting small is even more evident in my yoga practice. When I first started taking yoga lessons, I was quite discouraged by the fact that I can’t even reach my shin when I do forward bend. I was so stiff. But my kind Iyengar teacher kept assuring me that I, too, will be able to touch the floor one day.

Although I didn’t see how that was possible in the beginning, I stuck it out, with my teacher's guidance, gently easing into my practice rather than forcing my body into submission. Each time I went to my yoga class, I set an intention to push my practice just a little bit harder and enjoyed even the smallest improvement that I made. 

It happened sooner than I expected, although by this time, touching the floor was no longer my primary motivation for practicing yoga.

When you’re struggling to get motivated to finish your project or get to your goal, it’s helpful to see the big picture and where you are at in the process. Look at your situation, your depth of knowledge, your confidence, your fitness level, your well-being and then compare this when you’ve just started, or even just a year ago. Have you become more decisive? Have you become more knowledgeable and confident? Have you become healthier and happier? These are all achievements worth celebrating.

Sure, you should always aim to fulfil your lofty goals, but the only way to sustain and motivate yourself to get to the end is by celebrating every little victory you achieve along the way.


Another fail-proof strategy to ensure success is to agree to do something that would help your cause. Most importantly, you make it in such a way that it would be near impossible for you to back down.

This works because you're essentially not giving yourself a chance to renege on your commitment because the consequences would be costly.

So how do you pre-commit? There are a few ways you can do it.

If you’re trying to quit a habit, remove the temptation that will cause you to relapse. If you’re trying to give up smoking, for example, don’t carry cigarettes. If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t buy chips.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to develop a habit, say exercising or practicing yoga regularly, pre-commit to work out that day by packing your gym gear to work. Because you’ve already gone through the trouble of packing your workout clothes, you’re likely to be motivated to use them.

Another very effective way is to pay for a class, a seminar, a personal training or coaching session that is not refundable. When you know you can’t take your money back, you’re likely to show up.

You can also get someone to ‘police’ your progress to ensure you do what you’ve pre-committed for. This can be in the form a coach or a mentor or someone you trust to keep you accountable.

To take this even further, you can set it up so that you get penalised by a certain amount each time you lapse. The amount needs to be big enough for you to feel the ‘pain’ when you pay your coach or friend. A good start would be $50 each time you miss your training session, you ate that extra piece of cake or didn’t meet your target.

The point is, if we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to back out, we’re likely to stay the course and achieve our goals.

Monday, 8 July 2013

How to make that leap even when you're scared

If you’re finding it difficult to make the ultimate leap towards your dream no matter how much time you’ve prepared yourself, these might help.


By Nila Sweeney

Perhaps you're thinking of starting your own business. Maybe you want to change career or go back to work after taking a long break. Maybe you're dreaming about travelling the world, taking your relationships to the next level, or ending the current one you're in.

You’ve been diligently preparing yourself. But then even after spending a lot of time getting ready, you're still unable to make the crucial next step.

You know you need to act and desperately want to take the plunge. But how?

Here are three simple steps that might help you finally make that leap.

Acknowledge your fear.

There’s no getting around this first step. Until you admit to what you’re feeling, whether its anxiety or fear, you won’t be able to get to the bottom of what’s really causing it. There’s no point ignoring your fear because it’s bound to resurface when you least expect it.

Remember, what you resist persist.

It’s helpful to see fear and anxiety for what they really are: feelings that are fleeting. They come and go. You don’t have to fear them or avoid them at all cost. Learn to sit with them. Embrace them. Make them your best friend. Since they’ve been with you all this time, they’re likely to stick around for awhile more.

Realise that perhaps you’re more afraid of the feeling of fear rather than fear itself. If you can be with your fear or anxiety long enough to understand that they’re just feelings, you’ll be able to move on to the next step.

Find out what’s causing this fear.

Ask yourself, is starting your own business or travelling the world really such a dangerous thing? Actually, it’s not. There are far riskier things you could be doing right now.

So what are you really afraid of? Make a list. I can hear you grumbling. Not another list! I can assure you, this works.  Try it.

Putting things into writing really helps in clarifying your thoughts by understanding the root of your fear and anxiety. 

You might find that what you’re really afraid if is not about losing money. Perhaps it’s more to do with not meeting the expectations you set upon yourself. Perhaps you're afraid of failing. Perhaps you created this elaborate fantasy that you should make tens of thousands of dollars in your first venture. Recognising that these are just fantasies will help you realise just how much you’ve glorified your fears.

Once you get to the bottom of what’s really causing your fear, you can now let it go and take the next step.

Focus on what you gain by letting go of your fear.

What would it look like if you let go of your fear? Would you gain the juiciest relationship? Peace of mind? Would you gain adventure or financial freedom?

Focusing on what you gain makes it easier for you to let go of your fears. It enables you to see how your fears make you procrastinate and miss out on all these available opportunities.   
As you loosen your grip to your fear, you’d find that it also slackens its grip on you. You can now go through any perceived obstacles with confidence; knowing that you largely created them and therefore, you do have the power to banish them.

Now, take a deep breath and jump!