Tuesday, 31 January 2012

A Guide to Doing Things Your Way

It is day 31 and the very last foothold in the mountain that has been Make Your Life Amazing 2012

I’ve given you the basic recipe, the next step is to add your own secret, special ingredients, to make it totally your own.

Your amazing life will never be like anybody else’s, because you are not like anyone else. That’s why, although I hope to have given you a helping hand, it is down to you how far you take this concept, and how far you really start existing spectacularly.

People rarely have much faith in their own way of doing things, which is a real shame, because it’s usually their very best way of going about things. Once you can put faith in your own ability, you can truly start growing into something special; whereas, if you cannot believe in yourself, you will always stunt your own progress.

How far do you truly support your own manner, actions, opinions, and idiosyncrasies? How far do you truly feel you are equipped to start living an amazing life right now? Once you invest faith in yourself, and once you can feel safe in the knowledge that, whatever happens, you can stand by your choices, then you have armed yourself with the mindset you need to be your most amazing.

You have the tools to fashion whatever style of life you choose, all you need to do is take the plunge and back up your aspirations with action.

♥ An amazing life requires your own special ingredients
♥ You are not like anyone else; put faith in your own ability
♥ Arm yourself with the mindset and actions you need to be your most amazing self

Have faith in your own way.

Now that the series is over, it’s time to stop listening to me, and start hearing yourself. In all honesty, have you lost faith in your own decisions and aims?

I think, with all the work we’ve done this month, a summative homework is necessary. Therefore, in light of the above quote, we’re going to rationalize a sort of MYLA ‘toolkit’ to take with us from this series. Instead of Kazantzakis’ ‘colours and brushes’, however, we’re going to record our aspirations, our tools for action, and our prospected outcomes. List these three headings in your journal, and write between three and five points for each one. See my example:

Click for larger version!

It's okay to go back through your journal and repeat your most powerful points from the other exercises, in fact, that’s kind of the point; we want to gather the best bits of the whole experience to give you that final surge to super-self-stardom.

And that was Make Your Life Amazing 2012, folks! I will announce the eCourse winners in the next few days, so still a chance to comment on this post to be in with a chance. Any final thoughts? Doing this again has really inspired me to create a whole new big project which we can all get involved in - so I'll start scheming and keep you posted. I can safely say that, personally, I find myself in a whole new bracket of amazing since the start of this month, with some big practice-what-you-preach actions being taken just today - all will be revealed.  

I hope it got your 2012 fire started, too. ♥

Monday, 30 January 2012

Focus on Fun

We all know that old adage: ‘it ain’t what you do; it’s the way that you do it’. 

Well, whatever you’re doing, if there’s enough fun, joy, and passion behind it, you cannot fail to succeed, because your enthusiasm and enjoyment will shine out in the way that you go about it.

We often overlook having fun, not considering it a valuable use of our time; but the truth is, what are we here for, if not to be truly enjoying ourselves and reaching our capacity to embrace all the good in the world? Fun is our drive; fun is the reason the world dances and sings and cuddles and laughs and creates and comes together – fun makes it all worthwhile.

Fun is catching; if you’re having fun, people will want to join in. Fun attracts people to your cause, whatever that might be. If you can find substance in fun, and look past its often misconstrued reputation as a superficial endeavour, you will find that your world can become bold rather than washed out; your day can become an extravaganza, rather than a slog, and your work can become wonderful, rather than wearing.

Once you’ve made fun your priority, it won’t be merely an isolated event which only happens at the weekend, or on payday, or at Christmas... Your life will simply be fun in itself, and you’ll begin to see it for what it is: a glorious carnival of experience, enterprise and landmark achievements.

♥ With enough joy and passion, you cannot fail to succeed
♥ Don’t underestimate fun, it makes life worth living
♥ Fun isn’t reserved for weekends; let your entire life shine with it

Make fun your priority.

Have you been having enough fun? Fun is something we often leave to happen spontaneously and organically, meaning that, if we have other distractions in our lives, fun sometimes fails to happen at all. Make the choice to experience life more vividly; make the choice to skip on the bright side, to laugh and to smile at every opportunity.

It is easy to let fun slip in our list of priorities, so it is important to prompt and remind ourselves to keep a fun focus. To be having more fun, the spirit of it should be running deep throughout our entire day. For that reason, try taking one minute at the very beginning and very end of each day to evaluate the fun you’ve had/will have. 

Visualise positive incidents, value your friends, be grateful for opportunities, and smile at just how much pleasure your day brought/will bring you. If this becomes a repeat action, you will forever be reminding yourself to have fun.

If you start to see yourself forgetting about fun, take a day off to make it your only priority. Be irresponsible, purely for the joy of it. Prepare your favourite breakfast. See your favourite people; do something you’ve been meaning to try for ages like paintballing or horse riding. Watch a classic film. Have an indulgent bath and get an early night in a freshly made bed. Get blissed out, and then let that feeling channel into all the other corners of your life.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Make Your Money Creatively

One of the major factors in feeling great about your life is to have work that is satisfying and worthwhile.

It is not, as many misconceive, to simply have a good salary; a good salary is not the be all and end all. The bubble of consumerism in which we are stuck tells us we need a lot more than we actually do. In reality, we can live on far less than we think. We can’t, however, live amazingly unless we feel inspired and rewarded through our everyday efforts.

We all need to make a little money to survive, sure we do; money helps further enrich our lives in exchange for our talents. But the obvious ways of making money are not always the most appealing. The 9-5 office job might pay well, but only if we are willing to sacrifice our sense of amazing for a steady pay cheque. If we want a sustainable feeling of contentment from our work (and really from our lives, as work takes up so much of our life) we need to be working creatively.

Though it may not be something you’ve considered, satisfying work comes down largely to our own sense of our output of creativity; whether it’s being an all-out artist, being self-employed, leading a small team, or simply having ideas with some weight - we all run on a basic desire to have some impact; to have our voice and opinions heard and acted upon.

I won’t tell you it’s the easy route, because you already no it’s not. But if you can strive to make your money creatively – rather than simply strive to make money – your sense of purpose and fulfilment sky rockets and life, for you, becomes ever more amazing.

♥ An amazing life needs work that is stimulating, not merely well paid
♥ Stimulation in our careers comes down to our creative output
♥ It might not be easy, but it can make your life amazing almost single-handedly

Have a creative career plan.

It is when we lose our truest sense of aspiration and ambition that we meet the horrors of quarter life and mid-life crisis. Aspiration has long been associated with naivety, but I don’t think this is the case. Nothing was ever accomplished without there first existing someone’s dream to make it so. Do you want to accomplish things? Then you simply have to dream.

Today I want you to focus on constructing a creative career plan. Whether you’re in a job you could improve with creativity, stuck in a bad one and need an avenue out, or a student who has yet to set foot on the ladder - a structured career plan can put you on track.

I know this won’t be the most appealing thing to all of you, but at its heart is responsibility and passion for the direction your life will take, which is what all of MYLA has been about, so give it a shot. Mark points from one to twelve, one being where you stand now in your career and ten being where you want to be in your career in five years.

With the ten middle points, mark two things you could do each year to creatively impact your career. They can be obvious - like taking an evening course to gain an appropriate qualification, or networking with the right people - or they can be less obvious like saving enough to take the plunge into being self-employed, apply for an arts grant, spend some time living in another country perhaps learning the language, or investing in a piece of equipment that will drive you forward, like a Digital SLR camera, a sewing machine, or a computer programme. Push yourself to come up with ten even if it’s hard.

Arrange them appropriately and you will have the bones of your creative career plan. If it appeals to you to do so, then elaborate on it, but if you simply hate this kind of thing then just commit to following the steps you have.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Lead an Extra Life: Read a Book

Do you read enough? 

Books are like sharing secrets with the great minds of our time, and they are the best tools we have for learning lessons from times past. If you’re not reading, you are denying yourself the joy of new thoughts, new worlds and new experiences - all from the comfort of your own bed, or bathtub or seat on the train.

People often feel overwhelmed by the task of reading - myself included - and many get put off all together. But if you can find writers you love, a niche that suits you, and take the pressure off, reading becomes a pleasure you’ll wonder why you hadn’t been making the most of earlier.

Self-help books get a bad rep. That’s because a great deal of them are formulaic and, well, pretty bad. But not all of them. Many of them genuinely have the power to turn your whole thought structure around; to lead you like a good friend into a completely new way of existing.

Fiction is daunting and, again, there is so much trash out there that you’ve probably read one or two novels on your summer holidays and thought ‘I don’t have time to waste on some sappy rom-com’. Equally, though, you might be scared of the mighty classics; the pressure to read and enjoy them weighing down on you like a cartoon anvil.

Books, particularly (but not exclusively) non-fiction books, do not have to be read in a linear fashion, that is, first page to last. Books don’t rule you - they don’t have your wrists chained to either cover - it is up to you at which points you want to dip in and dip out.

What you must remember is that books are there to be enjoyed, not to taunt us, and there is such a plethora of them out there that it would be foolish to limit yourself to any – even the classics – if they are simply not for you. Books don’t just teach us about the rest of the world, they teach us about ourselves. Books are your tool, not rigid sermons; you can disagree! Books are treasures for you to seek out and savour because they resonate with and motivate you, if nobody else.

♥ Books share secrets and valuable lessons.
♥ Don’t let generalisations or bad experiences put you off reading the books you’ll really love
♥ Books don’t just teach us about the world, they teach us about ourselves

Start your new relationship with books.

Go to a very good library, or one of those bookshops conveniently dotted with sumptuous leather seats for you to peruse your potential purchases in comfort; grab a stack of interesting looking reads, both fiction and non-fiction, and try to get a feel for each one in its entirety.

Flick through the pages, scan paragraphs and chapters, read the blurb and contents page – is this a book for you? No? Back it goes and on to the next one. Be brutal, if a book doesn’t instantly grab your imagination, discard it. Choose two or three books to check-out or buy, and dedicate an hour or two to sitting and reading parts of them all at once. Hopefully, this will help you to realise how we can control our reading habits, rather than letting books control and scare us off.

If you started a new journal for your MYLA adventures and have a wedge of space left in it, I now nominate it as your new reading diary. Record the major new thoughts you take from the books you love, muse on what you have learnt, and foresee what you will do with these lessons.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Be Conscious, Be Yourself

I believe that true consciousness of the self – a consciousness that you are prepared to allow to shine out – is the main ingredient in your amazing existence. 

This is when it all comes together – confidence, style, friendships – every facet of that illustrated life I’ve been talking about.

There are many opportunities in life to show people our ego. The challenge of self-acceptance, true confidence, and a life that is amazing, is to make these opportunities, instead, to show our real selves; until we are no longer even conscious of a difference, until we are one being, to ourselves and everyone else, inside and out.

When I say ‘ego’ this doesn’t have merely the traditional association of arrogance, it can also mean a facade that is underselling us. For the purposes of this article, the ego is merely a falsified self, which we dole out to the world in place of our real selves.

Being conscious of our real selves entails many things: it means listening to our bodies, noticing our reactions to certain situations, and being aware of when we thrive and when we pale so that we can adapt our situations to suit us best. Most importantly, it means accepting the self we are simultaneously uncovering and creating.

♥ True consciousness of the self brings all the elements of your amazing life together
♥ Your ego is your falsified self; your challenge is to replace this with your real self
♥ We must be aware of and accept our real selves to find our most amazing situation

Discover what your 'Real Self' would do.

Draw a line down the centre of a page in your journal, labelling one ‘Ego’ and one ‘Real Self.’ I’m going to give you four situations, and in each column I want you to write how your current ego would behave, and how you would really like to behave. If they match up, great! You’ve travelled so far in this journey and your amazing life is really coming together. If they don’t match, there’s still a little work to do.

1. You’re in a debate or argument, you know you have an excellent idea but there are a lot of big personalities talking all at once and you’re not sure you could back up your claim. Do you say nothing, or bite the bullet and say your piece whatever the outcome?

2. Whilst shopping you spot a stunning dress within your budget. It isn’t your normal style and is perhaps a bit dressy for everyday wear. Do you opt for a more sensible, plain style which won’t make you stand out, or throw caution to the wind and decide this is your chance to make a statement with your clothing?

3. You spot an advert for a job which has a great rate of pay and is exactly the kind of thing you’d love to do, but you don’t have every skill they list, and you know loads of people will apply for such a great position. Do you let it go, or apply anyway, deciding you’ll dazzle them regardless and simply chalk it up to experience if they reject you?

4. Whilst on the bus, a beautiful girl comes to sit next to you. She is dressed in a sparkly, interesting outfit and gives you a big smile. You can hear her iPod playing one of your favourite songs, and she pulls out the very same book you currently have on your bedside table at home. Do you feel intimidated that she is so much prettier and more expressive than you, or start up a conversation with the aim to make friends?

If you feel you would react differently to the reactions I’ve described, by all means write what you would do – just make sure you’re being honest! If your ego’s reaction and the action of your real self differ – how can you equip yourself to change this? Try to find the reason you aren’t reacting how you’d like to, and keep hold of this new found consciousness of your real self so that, when your ego reacts, you can strive to beat it.

We are nearing the end of Make Your Life Amazing 2012 - and I hope you'll agree it's been a blast! How will you be using these last few days to cement all the work you've put in so far? Remember that if you fancy a FREE COPY of the Ambitious Happines eCourse you need to drop a little comment on this post.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Create Your Path

We talked yesterday about finding and following your bliss, but the focus was a little more on the finding rather than the following, so today we’re going to tackle that by creating your path.

Every destination has a path which leads to it, both literally and figuratively. Often our focus falls too heavily on the destination without really considering the path. This is a mistake. When we consider the path we need to take, we draw our destination nearer to us and we find that the stepping stones get closer together and easier to tread.

Your path is yours to choose, regardless of your current job, friends, background... It is where you go from here that counts. Your path is your mission. It is made up of both your big goals and your little ones. It is the road to your bliss, and it is as much a physical action as it is a powerful thought action; you have to start actually moving somewhere, rather than just envisaging your destination.

How often does the space between your waking up and going to bed feel like it has really gotten you anywhere? Do you regularly feel like the day has truly been a step forward on your path? When you have a path you are truly conscious of – one that you have purposefully manifested rather than stumbled onto by chance – each day becomes a step on that path, not merely a haphazard passing of time.

♥ When we consider our path, we draw our destination nearer
♥ Your path is as much physical action as it is thought action
♥ Make each day a step forward on your path

Your homework today is to form a sort of mission statement, but as we have done a lot of work focusing on what we want, and because we want to avoid too much focus on simply our aspired to destination, there’s a twist.

Imagine you are 100 years old, reflecting back over the events of your life; put yourself in the position of your ultimate destination and look back at what got you there. What will you have achieved? But, more importantly, how did you achieve it? What were the steps you took? How did it come about?

Write your mission statement backwards, and write it from an eye of having achieved it, thus removing any dithering on potential failure; you’re there, you’ve had it. Begin with an affirmative statement, begin with the destination, and then track back to where you are now. For example, mine might be:
“I am a successful and acclaimed writer with a whole bookshelf of published work. I have many close personal friends, a large, wonderful family, and a beautiful estate home in the countryside of a warm corner of the world.”
You don’t have to track back your steps in order; think of the things you will have to do as they come to you and arrange them chronologically once you have them. Most importantly, commit to visualising your path every day, really see it in its entirety, not just the destination; be conscious of it so that you are always moving forward and never sitting stagnantly.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

How to Find and Follow Your Bliss

Firstly, what is your bliss? 

Your bliss is your absolute peak existence. Your bliss is your amazing life, and, unfortunately, I cannot sum up how to find and follow it within the boundaries of this article – that’s what I’m striving to achieve with this series in its entirety. What I want to do by familiarising you with your ‘bliss’ is to give you focus, and a real concept of what all your hard work in this series has been and will be for.

Your bliss can mean many things and come in many forms; you might find it in your relationships, in your career, in a particular place, in your most valued hobbies. Life is for finding it and following it and living it day in, day out, because it is what lights you on fire; because it helps you to really be an essential part of the world rather than merely a passerby.

To find your bliss, understand that it is already within you – it is a matter of inner questioning rather than an exterior hunt – and in most cases the key to finding it is to merely stop and listen to yourself. Believe that you are a channel of energy in this world, and that it is down to you how you shape and manoeuvre that energy into the best existence imaginable.

You must have the bravery to follow this path; you owe it to the world to do so. You are a living, breathing cause for hope; a fountain of inspiration to the people around you, and you do your human duty by giving your truest message out continually. But to follow your bliss takes chance and risk and moments of doubt where you want to turn back, so it is imperative to support yourself every step of the way, and that's what our journal has been for.

♥ Your bliss is your peak existence; its importance lies in having a concept of what you are striving for in life
♥ Your bliss makes you an active part of the world, rather than just a passerby
♥ Your bliss is within you, have the bravery to follow it

Find your bliss.

With the help of the previous exercises, your bliss may be already becoming clear to you; now is the time to set it in stone – not so you cannot change it, but so it is a fixed concept for you rather than an airy desire. As the above quote says, to find your bliss, it is necessary to start communicating with yourself. Considering it on a very basic level, without the skew of responsibility, practicality and approval: what feels like your bliss? Could you be brave enough to follow that? Why/why not? What stands in your way? Is this a real block or an imagined one?

Write in your journal 'My bliss is...' and show yourself evidence of your ultimate desire, being clear and to the point so that you know, if no one else, precisely what you're living for.

Once your bliss is down on paper, commit to taking at least one action a day that moves you closer towards it; from reading a part of a great book, to sending an important email, to taking a couple of hours as simply creative time... Be sure you are always following your bliss in even the smallest ways.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Take Yourself on a Creative Date

People are always at their most wonderful when they are being creative; this is when our full potential is able to shine and to grow. 

When we are creating, we are being most authentically ourselves, rather than running to an agenda.

Whatever kind of creative you are: a writer, an artist, a musician, a dancer, a designer... you have to continually feed your creative side if you want it to work for you. How do you go about this? One way is to take yourself on a creative date.

Whether or not you consider yourself as ‘a creative’, if you are taking part in this series or are in any way trying to improve your life, then you are; you are creating a life from your imagination, you are becoming the illustrator of your own existence, and this is the highest peak of creativity. This creativity still needs feeding in the same way.

A creative date is simply an exercise in inspiration; it is partaking in an activity or activities which inspire, motivate, and encourage your creative side. Its aim is fulfilment and crafting a life worth falling in love with.

♥ When being creative, we are being our most authentic
♥ Whatever your creative practice, you need to continually feed your creative side
♥ Regular creative dates will lead you to a life worth falling in love with

Organise your own creative date.

Think about the things that most inspire you: film, art, theatre, dance, photography, nature, food, architecture... and then outline the perfect day or afternoon trip that will incorporate them. Take a paddle boat out on a local lake, wander around a gallery, see the ballet, read a classic in the park, do a cooking class, go for a walk in the woods, see an arthouse film etc.

If possible, take your journal with you to record your sparks of inspiration. This should be a regular activity – think of yourself as a lamp that needs plugging in every once in a while to keep it working at its full potential. When we are constantly inspired, then we are constantly living out or fullest, most dynamic lives, we are constantly witnessing our own achievement, and we are constantly putting the 'zing!' in amazing!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Celebrate Your Style

To make our lives amazing, a key aspect is to feel comfortable in our own skin, but it is also about being comfortable in our second skin: our clothes. 

To many this may seem a superficial endeavour, but it is really not – our clothed selves are shown to the world every day, and if we don’t feel comfortable in that, we don’t feel comfortable in many other areas of our lives as a result. So, whatever your style – let’s start to celebrate it.

We all have a certain brand of personal style, whether it is in keeping with the ‘norm’ is a whole other tale, but it is there. A lot of our time is spent striving to improve our style, not enough time is spent simply celebrating it. Celebration of our style is where the real fun is, it is where we start seeing more of ourselves and learning a few lessons.

Whether or not you want to celebrate all facets of your style (perhaps you want to avoid the fact that you always resort to tracksuit bottoms on rainy days!) it is absolutely worth making the effort to rejoice in the best bits and the things you do well when it comes to your attire. Think about it: a rose wouldn’t complain that it wasn’t more like a daisy, or a lilac, it simply strives to be the most amazing, bright, beautiful rose it can be.

Feel blessed for the gorgeous items that reside in your wardrobe; adore the part of your body that looks best in your clothes; revel in your handiness with a hot hairstyle... put the best part of your look in the limelight, and the likelihood is that others will start to notice too.

♥ Be comfortable in your clothes, they are your second skin
♥ Strive to celebrate, rather than improve, your own brand of personal style
♥ Put your best bits in the limelight and others will catch on

Praise your style on paper.

Write down the things you love about your style: do you wear pencil skirts particularly well? Do your jeans all fit like a dream? Are you great at layering? Hair accessories your forte? Whatever it is that’s great about your look, pay it some attention.

Similarly to when we looked at our successes in order to breed more success, focusing on your aesthetic strong points allows your style to develop and improve, rather than be stunted by negativity. See my example: 

This one is really fun, and surprisingly rewarding - it's like a personal pep-talk, which we can all use now and again! Share one or two of the things you love about your style in the comments, oui?

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Play a Character

Very often, we limit ourselves. 

We do without even realising it; we make assumptions about our own abilities and hide behind them persistently. Because of this, the character we are and the character we want to be are often very far apart, yet we don’t see that this is merely because of our own limits.

An antidote to this condition is to play a character. When we dream-up the character we could be – the character that we’d love to be – we have a very real vision of what we’re aspiring too, and we needn’t place any boundaries on what we can achieve. We have a reference point to call upon in times of questioning. When we’re not sure what choices to make, we can simply ask ‘what would my character do?’

You can base your character on someone you know, on a literary or film character, a fairytale figure, or just conjure up your own. Make it someone you would look up to if you knew them, but beyond this they can be as fantastical as you fancy; the bigger and bolder, the better.

From childhood experience we know that, once we submit ourselves to the world of make believe, anything becomes possible. So, by dabbling in this, we can learn more of the character we could become to the extent that, with enough practice, we can achieve that limitless character in the real world.

♥ Don’t be held back by your self-made limits
♥ Dream up who you could be, and ask yourself what they would do
♥ Dabble in the fantastical to form a very real, limitless character for yourself

Encourage your character.

I’m often enamoured by the beautiful lives of bloggers portrayed in their photographs – they just look so magical. It used to make me think ‘oh no, why isn’t my life that wonderful?’ and then, of course, I realised, it could be! Why not make my life that beautiful? But I needed encouragement; I needed to play my own most amazing character; I needed to make each day so glorious that it became worth taking photos of.

Today, take your camera around with you and start to capture pictures of your life. If the pictures don’t live up to your vision at first, don’t worry, they will – it just takes practice. Not only will knowing you’re going to take photos encourage you to make your life more wonderful, beautiful and worth taking pictures of, the pictures you get will also serve as a future reminder of how beautiful and wonderful your precious memories are.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Make the Most of Your Time

We only get so much time. To truly make our lives amazing, then, we must learn to use it, enjoy it, revel in it, conquer it and squeeze out every last smidgen of life there is in it. 

We’ve previously talked about getting to know our productive selves, so we are already half way to understanding how to fully utilise our time; but being productive, and having the right sense of the time we have in which to be productive, are different things.

Making the most of your time isn’t exclusively about being productive; it is also about enjoying yourself, feeling contented and purposeful and as though you’re living your life the best possible way. Making the most of our time, again, comes down to that crucial buzz word: consciousness. It’s about being aware of what we’re doing with our time, questioning whether that is the best use of our time, and striving to change it if it is not.

The best way to be conscious of how you are using your time is to plan it. Now, this might sound incredibly boring to some of you, but the wonder of planning is that you can do it however you like; it doesn’t have to be boring if you don’t want it to be. Plan your time to a tight schedule, or to a loose one, to strict activities, or with long lengths of free time – as long as you’ve made yourself aware of how you choose to spend your time, and don’t let it, as the above quote states ‘slip away from you’.

♥ For our amazing lives, the way we use our time is crucial
♥ Making the most of our time requires consciousness and awareness
♥ Plan your time in a way that suits you, as long as you have a plan

Plan your time.

Creating a plan for your time is helpful in so many ways; it helps you to recognize, realistically, how much time you have to work with, and shows you when you’ve been spending your time in the best ways, where otherwise this might have gone unnoticed and lead to your feeling down.

It is not easy for me to tell you what your plan should look like, because your plan has to work for you, not me – but hopefully I can give you some pointers that will spur you on and encourage you. Here are some options, pick the one you think best suits your lifestyle, or create your own:

1. Create a traditional daily timetable marked by hours and fill each hour with an activity.
2. Create a weekly ‘to-do list’ style timetable which shows what you want to achieve that week, rather than daily.
3. Create themed months or weeks, where you have a primary focus on one task or a group of linked tasks.
4. Give each day of the week a purpose according to your lifestyle, for example: Monday could be the day you organise odds and errands so that they won’t clutter the rest of your week; Tuesday could be a college day where you catch up on academic projects; Wednesday could be a personal project day spent on something like your blog or artwork; Sunday could be a rest or social day etc.

To make the most of your time, plan it the way that suits you, rather than trying to subscribe to the strict nine to five week/weekends off regime. If you have the commitment of full time work, plan your free time. Having a regime like fixed working hours to work around can actually make planning your time easier. Don’t let your plan overwhelm you, make it something realistic that you can really work with and enjoy, and start making the most of your time!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Mining for Love

Love is as precious as gold; and I’m not talking sickly, rom-com, chocolates and flowers type love – I’m talking the kind of love that works in the real world. Love for yourself and for life, as well as for people. Love as a lifestyle choice. 

Love as a main dish and not a side order. 

Love is there, it exists with or without you, and you choose whether you want to invest in it or not; you choose whether to mine for it.

You have the capacities to love, but you stand in your own way. How can we expect to experience big loves when we fail to invest our time making our loving feeling deep-rooted and permanent, so that it floods even the smallest corner of our day?

Often, it is the act of giving out love that really validates our belief in it, and if we cannot truly believe in it then we cannot realise it. Love can come out in many ways; through offering support, good manners, patience, listening, a friendly face, belief and encouragement. Get to know your loving side, then let others get to know it too.

Be open to love; be aware of its presence all around you. If there is not enough in your life, start giving it out freely. Let love be in every action; let it be your reasoning; give love freely and stop treating it like a rationed commodity because, if you do, that is all that will ever be returned to you. Love yourself first, then love your family, then love your life and all its peaks and opportunities – if you can do this fully and honestly, you will find that more love is to follow, romantic or otherwise.

♥ Love exists if you want it; make it a lifestyle choice
♥ You have the capacities to love, and giving it freely will teach how to believe in it for yourself
♥ Don’t ration the love you give out and it will return to you in abundance

Choose love.

To find love, in whatever format you need it most, you must first choose and define it. Reaching the full extent of your capacities to love will take stronger actions than simply writing in your journal, but this is a good place to start.

Write: ‘I choose love’, letting it be a powerfully true statement for you, then define what this will look like in your life, for example: ‘I will patch things up with my sister’ or ‘I will take time to treat and take care of myself’. 

For me, love looks like reinvesting in friendships, being kinder to myself, and upping my appreciation.

You can also think of the things you already love: people, places, pets etc. and work on recreating and extending that feeling out to change your attitude to other people and places and pets! Go out today with love on your mind, and love will be yours.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Influence Others for Success

So far, in talking about how other people can impact our amazing life, we’ve discussed what friends are doing for you and what you can be doing for others. Now, I’d like to talk about how speaking up and having a positive influence over others can lead to all kinds of success: in your relationships, in your career, and more!

We are often influencing people without even realising it; sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. The way we talk, the way we move about our lives, what we do and achieve – all of these will impact others on a small, or sometimes very large, scale.

It is your influence that is your impact on the world; your influence makes you memorable – makes your ideas worthy of being repeated. It doesn’t have to be standing up in a crowded room and belting out a whole manifesto – it can be what slips into your everyday conversations, or the choices you make in your career etc.

Now that we are conscious that we are influencing people all the time, we can grab hold of and improve that influence to our best advantage. If people recognise you as a positive influence, they will want more; they will come back to you; you establish yourself as a source of inspiration and encouragement to others. When people see positivity, nine times out of ten they react positively, so why not strive to make yourself a positive influence over people to see positive reactions and outcomes in whatever you do?

♥ We are often influencing others without even realising it
♥ Your influence makes you memorable, but it needn’t mean being pushy with your ideas
♥ We can be conscious of our influence and strive to make it positive so that we will see positivity in return

What do you stand for?

Influence is assertiveness; it is not being afraid to share your ideas and be who you truly want to be in all situations – but this isn’t always the easiest thing, so let's practice and prepare for it. There is a wonderful quote which says “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything” and I think this is vital in our quest to influence other people for the better.

Very often, we fall short of knowing just how to articulate and vocalise our influential ideas because we ourselves are fuzzy on just what they are. We have a vague idea of what we know to be ‘right’ and a strong sensation of what ideas feel ‘wrong’ but, unless we focus in on just what solid ideas we do stand for, we will always struggle to share them around and inspire others with them.

In your journal, write what you stand for. It can be in the format of bullet points, a paragraph, a poem, whatever you like! Its purpose is to clarify to you the kind of influence, specifically, you want to have. See my example:

(Click for larger version!)

These are the foundational ideas you can fall back on in any discussion, argument, interview, opportunity for influence etc. They are a step to defining and understanding the influence you want to have, so that you may realise it for success.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Do Things for Other People

Sometimes, the best way to feel good about yourself is to invest some time in others. 

Nowadays, there’s a lot of emphasis put on the ‘individual’ in the media. Yes, your individuality is very important, but not to the extent that we should be dividing and detaching ourselves from one another altogether. We all came from the same place; we are all here for the same reason, whatever that may be, and we all have the same basic wants and needs. So, let’s start helping each other out.

As we have already seen on our Make Your Life Amazing journeys, positively impacting on others is a question of consciousness; of being aware how our actions affect others and how we can manipulate that for positive measures. We can affect people positively often simply by changing our attitude, outlook, and way of speaking or acting in certain situations. We can choose to be positive life forces or we can choose to be negative life forces; what do you choose?

When we are constantly focusing inward, life can seem a lot more of a struggle than it need be. The ability to work together to help each other is one of the greatest blessings bestowed on our species, let us utilise and benefit from it.

Doing things for others does not have to involve running half marathons or organising charity auctions if that’s not your bag; it can be small things, things you may even find you already do. Doing things for other people is all about putting out positive energy and, as I’m always trying to stress, putting out positive energy brings it right on back to you.

♥ Individuality is important, but we should not let ourselves become completely detached
♥ Doing things for others can involve small, simple, conscious actions
♥ The positive energy you put out with mindful actions will come back to you

Get doing!

Set yourself the challenge today, or tomorrow, to do ten helpful things for other people. They can be small things like putting a coin in a collection tin, holding a door for someone, making dinner for your family or partner, helping somebody out with heavy bags, stopping and listening to somebody wholeheartedly, assisting a mum to get a pram down some steps, giving up your seat on the bus, buying a down friend some chocolates... You get the picture!

Or, you can choose to do more with less and undertake some bigger actions like committing your time to a volunteer project, clearing a neighbour’s garden, trading a skill with a friend, taking the time to post about a worthwhile charity on your blog, spending more at the supermarket on fair-trade products, or supporting local, small businesses.

Mine? Well, I'm in the process of applying as a volunteer for Bristol Rape Crisis either working on their helpline or with promotion of the group, so I'm going to turn my attentions to that as a big item. I'm hoping that smaller things will present themselves in due course...

This homework is about doing but, if you want to write a bit in your journal, simply take the chance to reflect on the positive feelings you gain from putting your energy into helping others.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Focus on Friendship

Humans are social creatures. 

No matter how introvert you think you are, the likelihood is that you benefit from social encounters. Without fulfilling relationships, we can become bitter and self-concerned in a world that needs us to be thinking about each other, now more than ever.

Good social skills may or may not have come naturally to you in the past. I know that, for me, they have been something I’ve had to work on and improve, but you have perhaps built long-term, beneficial friendships quite easily. For particularly driven individuals, friendship can often take a back seat; we often forget the value of friends until we find we really need them, and this is certainly the wrong way to go about things. But, whatever your previous track record, good friendship-building skills can be acquired just like any other skill, if you’re willing to make it your focus.

Before we can move forward into building friendships, however, we must, to put it bluntly, ‘take stock’ of our present situation. Consider the true value of your current friendships; we are products of our surroundings and, whilst positive people encourage our own positivity, negative people often perform the opposite function. Friendships can take a lot of energy to maintain, so make sure that the input of energy is equal between the two of you, and that you are being valued as much as you are valuing the friend.

Although it is difficult, cutting loose previous, oppressive friendships can often be the key to moving forward into brighter, lighter, more fulfilling relationships. Though I’m not encouraging hastiness in this arena, we should always feel it is in our power to maintain strong, abundant ties, and let go of sour, destructive ones – because these don’t help you, or the other person.

♥ As a social species, we benefit from regular, friendly interactions
♥ Social skills may or may not be your strong point, but you can improve upon them like any other skill
♥ Make sure you know and feel the value of your friendships, and are prepared to let go of any that are thankless

Take action on your friendships.

In your notebook, write five things you could do to improve your friendships. Often, we feel we owe a lot to a friendships when, in reality, the other person may not be so worthy. Take the opportunity to be a little selfish in this writing, really focusing on what you get from the friendship (we will talk more about not being selfish in articles to come, but I feel it is a valuable angle from which to start to study our friendships).

If you are not really gaining anything from a friendship, say so. If you want to get more from it, how could you go about that? How could you be making more effort? Is that effort worthwhile? What do you need from your friendships? Are you getting that? How could you get more? Perhaps by giving more yourself? Who currently feels like your ‘best’ friend? Why? Are you a lazy friend or a proactive one? – Ponder all of these questions and come up with five ‘action’ points. See my example:

Is anyone else having fun comparing their journal entries with MYLA 2010? I am! This one in particular highlighted how I have managed to bring new positive relationships into my life, give more to my friendships, and change my priorities. I love it when a plan comes together...!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Do You Have Your Own Small-Biz or Blog? Advertise With Charade!

It's been a long time coming but, due to a few requests of late, I'm now recruiting an exclusive circle of Charade-ettes to advertise their magical money-making endeavours on this ol'lemonade stand!

Whether you've got a beauty blog, etsy boutique or bespoke birdbath company - it's time to let the lovely frequenters of Charade know about your bangin' business!

How much? 

A teeny-tiny £12 (approx. $18) for 30 days! That's a mere £0.40p per day. Blimey, guv'nor, sounds like a ruddy'good deal to me.

Add to Cart

Now, why would you want to do that?

♥ Charade has experienced unprecedented growth in traffic as a result of Make Your Life Amazing 2012 and some of my own advertising that I've been doing (ohhi yesandyes.org) - visits here are up a whopping 52%! Yowza.

♥ I have a combined following of over 2.5k including RSS, Google Friend Connect, Twitter, Facebook and Bloglovin'. Charade is never over-saturated with ads so you're guaranteed some un-distracted eyes spotting your ad!

♥ Charade gets in excess of 30,000 page views per month. That's a heckofalotof views of your ad.

What do you get for your cash-cash-monies?

Confidence in me giving you the most traffic it is in my power to give! I'll gives'ya a Tweet, Facebook link, and round you up in a monthly Sponsor Salute at the end of every month.

♥ A bright, shiny 150x150px ad on www.charadestyle.com for 30 long days.

♥ A hug. (There may be a view logistical difficulties with this one...)

Interested? Holy-moley-me-oh-my, you sure won't regret it!

Add to Cart

It could not be easier to board the Charade gravy train!

1. Pay using the button above

2. Shoot your ad to megan@charadestyle.com (it will need to be 150x150 px, as high quality as possible, and either a .jpeg or a .png file)

3. Feel warm and fuzzy knowing that you've supported this little home-grown blogington, and put a big wide grin on the face of a certain blonde British girl (ahem. me.)

Question? Comment! Love you, gang ♥

Don’t Get Jealous, Get Better

There are lots of people in the world. Many of them will have more than you, achieve more than you, be prettier than you, etc. However, there are equally as many people who have far less than you, achieve next to nothing in comparison to you, be a lot less pretty than you are, etc.

Do you see how inconsequential that makes jealously? How pointless it is? 

Why do we prioritise pining about the things people have that we don’t, rather than skipping about in a merry haze, cheering about all the things we were blessed with over others? We’re a funny old species.

It is okay to get that pang when you see something someone has that you want; that little hint of the green-eyed monster – it’s natural, it merely signifies ambition and want within you. But it’s what you follow that with which counts. If you sit around simply moaning ‘why did they get it and not me?!’ then you’re not going to get very far; the jealously will engulf you; you’ll become bitter and far worse off than you needed to be.

However, if you take that pang and question it: ask what exactly it is that you desire in the jealously scenario, then decide ‘I’m going to have that too’, you become deserving of it and you can work to make it happen. Or, at least, if you can’t change it, you can change your attitude about it or make it your mission to gain something equally as precious.

You have to focus on being the best you – because that is all you have. Being yourself is the best gift you were ever given, have you ever thought of it like that? Think about yesterday’s post and be thankful that you are who you are, where you are. When you feel jealousy, recognise it as a glimpse of your own potential achievement, and take a lesson from it, not a confidence knock.

♥ Realise that jealousy is inconsequential – it’s all relative!
♥ Jealousy is okay, it’s what you do with that feeling that counts
♥ Use jealous feelings to aid your own development and not stand in your way

Change your attitude to jealousy.

Think of three incidents where you have felt jealous, or imagine three where you could potentially feel very jealous.

  • Why would you feel that way?
  • What, specifically, is it they have that you want?
  • Why don’t you have it?
  • Can you help that?

Now, use that jealous feeling as a tool rather than an obstacle, exploit it rather than letting it weigh down and depress you. Change your thoughts to proactive ones, ask yourself:

  • How can you have what they have too?
  • Or: how can you change your feelings about it to elevate yourself in spirits, regardless of whether you possess it or not?
  • Can you shift your focus to another, more suitable, more attainable goal?
  • Is that really what you want, or do you have higher aspirations?

Let jealously inspire you. Let it be your teacher; imagine the subject of your jealously has been placed in your path simply to show you what you could be with a little work and determination – and you will never go wrong.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Be Thankful

Amid the modern gal's efforts to be stronger and faster and better and fitter and thinner and quicker and prettier... (phew-ee!) it can often slip our minds to stop, and simply say thanks for what the world has, already, richly provided us with.

When you feel grateful then you feel, by default, prosperous and happy - and comforted in the knowledge that you live a life worth being thankful for. You are focused upon the treasures you already possess, rather than the empty sensation of the things you don’t. If you feel lucky, blessed and contented with what you already have, this becomes a pattern for you; it shines out; you attract good things and you go on to be increasingly lucky, blessed and contented.

Everything you already have: your home, your family, your friends, your lover, your health, your education, your material comforts – they are all precious gifts that you would probably be lost without. Cherish these things, say thank you for them every day.

Working to be better and have better, like we are doing with MYLA, does not mean disregarding or taking for granted the wonderful things already abundantly present in our lives. Quite the contrary, being thankful enhances our efforts. Take this opportunity to pause in your self-development journey, and thank the heavens for the glorious existence that is already flourishing all around you.

♥Working for better often means we forget to appreciate where we are now
♥When you feel grateful, you are concentrated on the best things in your life, you feel positive, and therefore you attract more blessings
♥Take a moment to consider all that you already have, and be thankful

Say thanks.

Today, I want you to take your eyes off of the future for just a moment, and get captivated by the present. I want you to say thank you for the things you already posses. In your journal, write a letter of thanks to the universe for everything it has already given you. See my example, which I typed today for clarity!

Dear Universe,

Thanks for icy mornings and rain showers - they are magical. Thanks for good friends. Thanks, always and forever, for my family. Thanks for curiosity and honest people. Thanks for language. Thanks for novelty and challenge and adventure. Thanks for giving me resilience. Thank you for my health and ability to breathe deep when I need it, eat well, and sleep deeply. Thanks for art and ideas and human passion in all its forms. Thanks for the stars and for allowing me to plot my own course by them. Thank you for colour and spirit and declaration. Thanks for making me as I am, and the world as it is.

Thank you for it all,

Let this letter serve as a reminder of how lucky you are. Let it exist as a foundational platform upon which you can build more joy, blessings, good luck, prosperity, love and wonder.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

What You Need to Know About Happiness and Determination

Saying you want to be happy, and actually setting out and doing something about it, you’ll know, are two quite different things. 

You have the right to happiness, and you can choose it anytime you like, but we’ve all felt the weight that bears down on us when their seems to be too many darned hurdles in the way; we give up and resort to a limbo state of idleness, hoping happiness will come knocking when we get that big promotion or meet the lover of our dreams.

I know this is probably not what you want to hear, but, like everything worth having in life, happiness takes work; it takes drive, and it takes persistent determination. Just because there are people all around you making it look easy, it doesn’t mean that it is (and it probably wasn’t for them either.) But, I believe, happiness that is actively worked for, is the most sustainable kind of happiness – the kind that won’t abandon you when you least expect it, because you understand it better, and you got yourself there. 

The way I see it: 

The Desire for Happiness + Determination = Success

Why? Because you need to be determined to be happy; you need to have a concept of happiness that you strive towards. I don’t know why humans are here on this earth, but it does seem obvious to me that it is not to mope about aimlessly. From your own experience, wouldn’t you agree that the people in your life who have a major focus or direction – one that they feel passionate and inspired about and actively work at – are the people who are most happy? If you become determined enough towards happiness, happiness will become a by-product, because the two thrive off of one another.

Because you are sitting there, reading this article, it is clear to me that you already feel determined to succeed and be happy – otherwise you’d have head off to turn the TV on by now! Now that you know that, and I know that, let’s work together to make it a reality...

♥ Happiness isn’t easy but, if you work for it, it will be sustainable
♥ The Desire for Happiness + Determination = Success
♥ Your determination should be a major focus or point of direction

Work hard to be happy.

Up until this point: have you been working hard to be happy? How much happier do you think you could be if you had been? Happiness is not the result of getting to one place or achieving one thing – it never will be. No, happiness comes first; happiness should be the backbone of your existence, and you should work for it before you set about working for anything else. 

Today’s homework is simple: reinstate your enthusiasm for the MYLA series. Go back and review the exercises you’ve completed so far and consider what they’ve taught you about being amazing. Realise that to complete them all will take work, but that it is work that is worth it; it is work towards happiness and a better you than ever before.

After this reflection, in your journal, write five points on what you’re noticing happiness means to you, and five points on what determined work you could be doing to make that happiness a reality. See my example:

(Click for larger version!)

Share your points in the comments, and your thoughts on MYLA so far! For more on the topic you might want to read How to Be Happy.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Friday Feature: Shabby Apple

If you're hankering after a perfectly-cut, quality, affordable vintage dress. Girl, Shabby Apple is all over it. Whether for a special occasion, daily-dress up or just, well, because, I challenge you to spot a dress in their beautiful collections that doesn't make your eyes bug-out with downright desire.

Shabby Apple were kind enough to bestow upon me the El Capitan wiggle dress. And. I. Love. It. Can you tell? Cap sleeve. Check. Pencil skirt. Check. Ruffle waist. Check! It's the dress I never knew I needed. Have I strolled straight out of 1950's Paris, or what?

I thought it was the perfect time to also reveal to you my vintage cream hat-box suitcase. Try not to hate me. I have wanted one forever and finally found this for a steal a couple of months back at a vintage fair. Cat & cream.

Right now you can get 10% off at Shabby Apple 
with the discount code: charadestyle10off

Get the new year off to a glittering start with a dress you can take on the world in! There are also all manner of discounts and special offers to be unearthed if you 'Like' Shabby Apple on Facebook. They'd love it if you stopped by.  

Which dress is your favourite?