Monday, March 16, 2009

How Do You Want to be Remembered?

Our time on Earth is finite, and so the time spent in the company of any particular other is also finite. People come and go in life. People die. They move away. They move on.

And so, of course, does life. Within a few short generations of their death, few people are even remembered with any clarity - if at all.

Knowing this can often leave you with a feeling of futility. And what, indeed, is the point of a life lived and done, for the vast majority? For the most part, we will pass on our genetics, enjoy or drudge through a few score years, before being unceremoniously dumped from the gene pool.

There are, of course, a small minority of people that we can point to and say – “there, his life made a difference to the world. His life was important.” These are not the people I am talking about. I am talking about the 99% of people on the planet who, in Mark Twain’s words, “live lives of quiet desperation”.

I am talking about you.

What is the point to your life? Why are you even here?

Well, you are here because you are here. Whether you believe in a God or not, your life contains the raw materials of purpose. The rest, really, is up to you. How you take those raw materials and shape them into a life is entirely your choice, in every moment.

So, how do you want to be remembered? This is a good place to start when thinking about putting some meaning into your life. I know many people for whom raising a decent family and instilling honest values into their children is the ultimate justification for their claim to a piece of the planet.

For others, this would be unfulfilling, and creating and instilling a part of themselves in something else is the answer. Ultimately and in every case it is the act of creation that fills humans with purpose. In the end it doesn’t matter whether we are creating a corporation, a relationship, a painting - or another human being. It is in the act of creating something new and imbuing that thing (baby / company / artwork / whatever) with a part of ourselves, that we feel a sense of immortality.

And it is that feeling of immortality that gives us the buzz. We know in our little human hearts that the stuff that is us will not last very long in the big scheme of things. We will die and fade away, like every other living thing that has ever existed. But what we leave behind – that is another story. The things, ideas and lineages that will continue to exist because you have existed are your contribution to the essence of life.

Don’t Forget the Butterfly Effect
I have never really been what some might call a ‘kiddie’ person. I have never longed for a little version of myself to inflict on the world. My sister, on the other hand, was a born mother. She wanted babies from before she knew where they came from. Consequently, there were many conversations growing up where I would denigrate her ‘suppressed’, ‘old fashioned’ ideas, and she would try and convince me why being a mother was the only goal worth having.

As I got older, my reasons for not wanting children grew to include my teenage angst about the woeful state of society, and my reluctance to ‘bring children into this sorry world’. During one of these conversations with my sister she pointed out something that has always stuck in my mind. She noted that it could, in fact, be my child that mightmake the difference in turning things around in this ‘sorry world’.

That thought stayed in my mind, and I realised that it was true. And even if it wasn’t, maybe it would be my grandson or great-great-great granddaughter that did something great, which, in my mind, would validate my existence.

I still don’t have children, and don’t regret my decision for many reasons, but the idea that the actions I take during my life could have ripple effects through multiple generations has kept me intrigued and occupied for many years.

My writing, drawings and paintings, and even this blog are all things that I have created out of the heart of who I am, but they take on a life of their own once they actually exist in the world. Once they pass from an idea in my brain to a canvas, or a blog post, they become tangible things that will have their own path to take before they, too, fade away to nothing.

It is this path to which, without even realising it, humans dedicate their existence. It is worth remembering that taking a little bit of time to consider how you want to be remembered after you are gone can help to guide you to where you want to be while you are here.

Feel free to copy and publish this article online, but please include the authors details and link below.

Neurons works online from where ever she happens to be a the time.Learn how you can do it, too, by visiting or

Tomorrow is Tomorrow

Most self-help books will tell you when you are feeling bad to remind yourself that tomorrow is another day. And so it is. But if you expect that tomorrow will be any different from today, and then continue to do the same things and think the same thoughts, then you are in for a sad surprise.

Tomorrow is tomorrow. It is the day after the one you are living today. It has the potential to be the most amazing day you have ever experienced. But potential can only be realised with at least a little bit of effort. Coasting into tomorrow on the winds of today will only guarantee you more of the same. Which is fine if you are going in a direction that you want to be going.

If you are stalled, or going in the wrong direction, then your experience will only change with a bit of a nudge. Often, you will get the nudge from an unexpected source, and find yourself riding the currents of an adventure, pleasant or otherwise.

And therein lies the danger of leaving yourself at the whim of life. You can never really be sure which direction it will take you, left to its own devices. So taking control of the ‘nudge factor’ on a daily basis will help keep you aligned to where you want to be. That will help keep ‘tomorrow’ a positive place.

If you don’t have a clue what tomorrow might hold for you, or if you are sure it has nothing good in store, why would you look forward to it? Sure, it’s a blank page, but if your mind is ready with lots of negative things to fill it with, tomorrow is hardly an appealing destination.

So how do you become your own ‘nudger’? Well, it’s important to remember to be gentle with yourself. You want to give yourself a nudge, not a shove. It might be true that you need a shove, particularly if you have settled into an easy, but ultimately unhappy groove. That is not what we are talking about here, though. We will discuss how and when to shove a little later. For now, we are focussing on the everyday thoughts and feelings that help put hope into life.

To have hope is to have some sense that things will work out ok, regardless of how we might think or feel right now. With that underlying foundation, enduring the bleak times becomes much easier. So remind yourself that, from a larger perspective than it will ever be possible for you to see, things actually will work out ok. Time will continue and one way or another the dramas we agonise over will resolve themselves and we will either experience them or not. Time will continue and we will have new and sexier dramas to agonise over, and we will either experience them or not.

Think about what makes you happy and where you want your life to be. What are the important aspects of that picture? The big-ticket items that would dissolve the whole rosy scene should they disappear? For most people, those things are family and loved ones, fulfilling work, a comfortable place to live. They are different for everybody, though. These are the things that you should nudge your life towards. Spend time and energy solidifying those things in your life.

This is really very simple. It just involves spending some time and energy on those things. Your home is important to you? Spend time gardening or decorating. Family important? Spend time having new adventures, exploring new places with your children.

But here is the important part. Enjoy it in the moment. Revel in the experience of enjoying something that is central to your life. Catch yourself and notice that you are smiling as you watch your baby waddle past with his wet nappy sagging down to his knees. Enjoy that moment consciously, before you pick him up and change him. It will make the quality of your interaction with him a little bit more delicious.

Your day is made up of countless moments that can be savoured and turned into tiny boosts to your spirit. This can translate into a massive boost to your mood that will travel with you wherever you choose to go.

So you’re a grumpy shit
Sometimes we behave in ways that we know, even as we are acting, are not going to accomplish our goals. Moods can overcome us and we find ourselves snapping at co-workers or family, and instantly feeling guilty about it. The guilt doesn’t necessarily stop us from continuing the behaviour, though. In fact, it can lead directly to more of the same as we turn in a self-fulfilling spiral of shame and vigorous denial.

We can rationalise the behaviour away with ‘I didn’t get enough sleep last night”, or “I’m under enormous amounts of stress right now”, but that doesn’t stop the guilt, either. So a vicious cycle of guilt and grump develops.

So you realise that you are grumpy and don’t want to be, but feel caught up in the emotion of it all. What to?

Start by relaxing. So what if you are a bit grumpy. We are working on changing that, so don’t stress. You are a work in progress, remember?

It may be a cliché, but it’s also true. Every human is working on becoming who they are (whether they know it or not), and every human has moments when they are not exactly showing the world their best. So what? Move on.

Do make amends if you have really screwed up or really been a shit, but don’t dwell.

Beating yourself up over being less than you want to be is like being angry with a child for falling over while she learns to walk. Remind yourself that you are only showing the world a small part of who you are right now, and living a full life includes letting out sides of yourself that you might not be thrilled with.

How else do you expect to learn about all of who are if you don’t even want to meet the bits of you that you know you wont like.

Everyone has aspects of themselves that they keep hidden – not just from others, but most importantly from themselves. These are the things that will usually pop up and bite us in the bum when we can least use it.

An interesting thing to realise about these horrible parts of us is that while you might think that you are keeping them hidden, the reality is that it is they that are keeping you hidden.

The things that we judge most harshly about ourselves help keep us locked in a life that we don’t want to be living. If we have too many dark and mysterious parts, they eventually close in on us, making our world very small indeed and preventing us from doing the things that we want to do with life. Hiding from the world who it is we really are.

More often than not, people will opt for the safe option of blocking out or avoiding the things about themselves that they find most difficult or confronting to feel. Avoidance as a strategy can be very productive. It can produce the sort of life that will have you standing on constantly shifting ground and will make certain that you are never quite sure you have a handle on your life.

If this is not the type of productivity you are after, it is probably wiser to develop a healthy relationship with all of your alter egos. And that will mean letting them out from time to time.

The key is to try and find the right worker for the right job. If you are intimately acquainted with all of the aspects of yourself, it will be easier to find a response to the world that fits both you and the situation at any given time.

Anger may well be your best response in a given situation, but if you are used to blocking or avoiding any angry feelings, you will never feel comfortable having an honest angry response. This makes it very easy for that screeching banshee bitch – the one that surprises you every time you get really angry - to appear and take over for you.

By actively, consciously getting to know every part of yourself - even the parts that you don’t think you like – the prospect of being unhappily surprised by your own behaviour can become less of a concern.


Feel free to copy and publish this article online, but please include the authors details and link below.

Neurons works online from where ever she happens to be a the time.Learn how you can do it, too, by visiting or

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Motivation - The Key to Everything!

Waking up in the morning, the day can loom ahead of you like Mount Everest. More often than not, my mornings have begun with the, sometimes unbearable, weight of knowledge that once I climb out of bed, I don’t get to rest again until I’m over the top of that bloody mountain!

I often wonder at people that can motivate themselves to great sporting or business victories, while for me finding the motivation to leave my bed is a struggle.

Motivation is the key to everything. I am not talking about the intense type of motivation it takes to be an elite athlete, or super salesman. I am talking about the quiet, unassuming motivation that keeps getting us out of bed every morning. Unfortunately, for some of us this feels like the same thing.

There will always be challenges to living the life you want, and even getting out of bed can be one of them. It is helpful to have some strategies to tackle those times when you are just not sure you can make it through the demands of even the most mundane day. Here are a few things that I have used to help put my feet on the floor and get the day moving.

Remind yourself how strong you actually are.
You have at the very least endured your life to this point. Hopefully you have also managed to wring some happiness out of it once or twice.

You have done that.

You have lived and survived every moment, regardless of how much help you may or may not have received. Regardless of the circumstances of your birth or fortune, you have accompanied yourself every step of the way. That has not always been easy. It has sometimes been downright shitty.

There are maybe two people on the Earth that might say that their life has been nothing but an endless string of fortune. And I don’t think I would believe them, either. Life is a struggle. For everyone, in one way or another. And you have managed to survive to this point.

Ok, maybe your life is not exactly what you asked for. Maybe it’s not what you said it would be when you were ten. But you have made it this far. And just surviving is something to be proud of.

Once you can accept that you are worthy just because you are here, get a bit bolder and start to think about the things that you have actually been able to do while you have been surviving.

I am sure that you have done something in your life that surprised even yourself. I am sure that you have done at least one thing that you can point to and say, “I really didn’t know if I was going to be able to do that – but I did.” If you don’t have one thing that you have felt a sense of achievement about then you have never learned to ride a bike. Or to write. Or speak, for that matter.

Humans feel good about themselves when they have accomplished something. It doesn’t have to be something big or important. As long as we have had to put some effort in to make it work, it feels good when it does.

Remind yourself about the things that you have already accomplished that you wouldn’t have guessed that you would ever do. You don’t have to be grand about it. I know lots of people that have been skydiving, but I don’t consider myself a failure because I have never jumped out of a plane. I have organised a professional function for a hundred international guests and had everyone gush with what a good time they had. I never thought I would be an office temp for 15 years, but I accomplished some interesting stuff in that time.

The thing to remember is that you had no idea that you would end up exactly where you are now. Just knowing that leaves you some wiggle room to expect that today could turn out to be, at the very least, not quite what you expect it to be.

There’s one motivation to get out of bed. What could today bring you if you get up and go out into it? Sure, all sorts of negative thoughts can jump up to answer that question, but we have already established that you have survived splendidly up to this point. The chances are that you will be just fine with whatever is out there.

You can decide not to be paralysed
One thing that you can take from realising how strong you are is to also realise that you can decide to shift from how you are feeling right now to something that feels better.

You are in complete control over everything that goes on in your mind. It does not always seem like it, and the control is frequently indirect, but ultimately because you are a thinking, sentient being, you can decide how you are going to feel. You can take conscious steps to move away from thoughts that result in negative feelings, towards those that you believe will result in more positive states of being.

Consciousness is a powerful thing, and you are all-powerful inside your own consciousness.

Be prepared
Create a list of things to do when you don’t feel like it. Often, lack of motivation can disguise itself as selective blindness. We don’t even see the things around us that are crying out for attention, while at the same time feeling bored and looking around for something to do.

A good cure for boredom is to give yourself a little success. Have a list of things that you’ve been meaning to get to, but ‘haven’t found the time for’, and use it as a tool when you are feeling listless and down on yourself.

You will need some discipline to start with, to honour the agreement you have made with yourself to be healthy and productive. Once you have put a little bit of energy into the chosen task, however, you will usually find the motivation to finish it, and you will have turned an afternoon, or even an hour, of depressed sloth into a small victory.

Who needs you today?
Often, if you really can’t find a reason to lift your head from the pillow, it is useful to get a bit tougher on yourself. Just considering the people that will need to work harder, or people that might be let down, or even those that are concerned about us is often enough to give us a kick in the backside, and motivate us to action.

It is true that there is no point in being hard on yourself unnecessarily, but self-pity can be a slippery slope. It is important not to put your own self-indulgence before other people’s genuine needs. The difficulty sometimes lies in determining if, indeed, you are being self-indulgent, and if the demands of others are, in fact, genuine needs. Take ruthless honesty as your best friend, and begin from the assumption that you are capable, albeit currently unwilling, to do whatever it is that you are asking of yourself.

And then tell yourself, very firmly, to do it anyway. Ok you may not enjoy it. Ok, you may grumble all the way through it. But at the end of the day you will have done something you started the day not thinking you would do.

Another little achievement.


Feel free to copy and publish this article online, but please include the authors details and link below.

Neurons works online from where ever she happens to be a the time.
Learn how you can do it, too, by visiting or

Life is Always a Work in Progress

I have struggled with bipolar disorder all of my adult life, and like many others, it has taken me on quite a ride. I have tried lots of different medications over the years, as well as self-medicating with various substances, in an effort to smooth out my roller-coaster life.

Eventually I found some drugs that helped keep me lucid and productive enough to hold down a responsible position and get my rent paid every month. For a while I was ecstatic. I felt like my world had been cleared of fog, and I was off and running! I could do anything I wanted with this newfound energy and enthusiasm for life.

I was thrilled at just being able to get up and go to work every day (well, most days), like a ‘normal person’. I was overjoyed at the sheer magnificence of life’s tantalising possibilities, dancing just outside my office door every day. I loved being able to gaze out the 12th floor window of my bay-side office at the sunshine, and watch boats bobbing around on the water outside.

After a few months the mania settled down and day to day life set in. Suddenly being locked in a concrete box all day looking through the window at the world outside didn’t seem so appealing.

Discontentment started sizzling inside me, distracting me from the tasks at hand. I enjoyed my job and liked the people I worked with, but I felt like I was jumping out of my skin with agitation and frustration. I wanted a life that I could honestly feel satisfied with, and it became increasingly obvious that this was not what I was living.

After a lifetime of ‘managing’ my illness and focussing on just getting through each day, I realised that I had never really thought about what I wanted my life to be, or what I wanted to gain from it. My thoughts had always been centred on trying to hold down a job and staying out of debt.

Since finding the right medication, and with a much clearer head, I could now see how very the things I was doing every day to be productive and survive were also stifling half of who I was. Because I was acting on old ideas of the ‘right’ things to do, I was making decisions with no conscious thought about whether those things would contribute to my personal happiness.

I decided to become much more conscious of the way things made me feel. Previously my only emotional options had seemed to be feeling shitty or feeling crappy, but I had started to experience the more subtle shifts that had previously been drowned out by stronger emotional currents.

What is to follow is the result of my investigations, experiences, self-analysis and lots of talking to other people about what it takes to move towards a happier, more content experience of life. I have written this to help give my journey structure while I continue every day to focus on creating a satisfying life. My hope is that it may also help others who are feeling trapped and alone in a life that doesn’t feel like it should be theirs.


Feel free to copy and publish this article online, but please include the authors details and link below.

Neurons works online from where ever she happens to be a the time.
Learn how you can do it, too, by visiting or