words by nerissa

…observations, thoughts and questions

Archive for the month “October, 2013”

10 tips to make a change

Over the past 12 weeks, I (along with 18 other people) have undertaken a 12-week Transformation Challenge.far from what I once was

While the focus has been on transforming our bodies (into one that has more muscle and less fat), for me the challenge has been more about transforming my mind. I have made changes to the way I think about food and exercise, the way I think about my goals and the way I go about chasing them down. I have made changes to my attitude towards setting big goals and I have changed the way I see myself. I have also made changes in the amount of self-belief and confidence I have, in all areas of my life. All of these changes have been positive ones.

While I knew that undertaking this challenge would involve hard work, I thought the process would be reasonably straight forward, seeing as I have done two before this. However, this challenge turned out to be one that taught me the most.

So, I thought I would share with you some of the things that I have learnt over these past 12 weeks.

  1. There is no such thing as a comfort zone — so keep moving ahead. If you want to make change, then you are obviously not comfortable where you are, nor do you want to go back to old habits. Moving towards your goals will involve doing things you are not comfortable with, but if you are going to be uncomfortable anyway, why not move in the direction of your dreams?
  2. Motivating others also motivates you. When you become part of someone else’s cheer squad, the positive energy and encouragement you give to them rubs off on you. So next time you lack motivation, try encouraging someone who is working hard at reaching their goals — and you will feel encouraged to keep pushing through.
  3. You must compare apples with apples. There is no joy to be gained by comparing yourself, or your journey with someone else. Everyone has obstacles to overcome, but they differ for everyone. Everyone has different goals they want to achieve. So comparing yourself with your perception of someone else, will only distract you from your progress. If you must compare, compare yourself now to yourself 3 months ago, 6 months ago or 12 months ago.
  4. Time goes by anyway. Regardless of how you are feeling in the moment, time is still ticking by. Sure, you may not feel like taking the steps you know will lead you closer to your goals. (I had a week where I was not particularly motivated to eat well or do all of my workouts). But don’t let your feelings dictate your progress. Do what needs to be done, regardless of what you ‘feel like doing’. Because if you don’t, you will kick yourself. (And yes, for the record, I did every prescribed workout during the whole 12 weeks.)
  5. There are opportunities everywhere. It doesn’t matter what you are working towards (e.g. a better body, improved health, the job of your dreams, buying your first house, etc.), there are always opportunities to move you closer to that dream if you look for them. When you spot one, make the most of it.
  6. Food does not solve problems. During the past 12 weeks, I had a health scare. Luckily it was just a scare. But I was tempted to turn to food (a McDonald’s sundae with the kids to be exact), to comfort myself. What I realised however, is that no amount of ice-cream was going to change the situation, ease my worry or alleviate the stress. So I said ‘no’. Instead, I drank my water and focussed on positive thoughts.
  7. Small achievements add up to big ones. It can be daunting to set out to achieve a goal. Particularly if you have a fair way to go to achieve it. However, instead of focussing on all you have to do, focus on little steps. During this 12 weeks, in each workout I focused on getting out one more rep, or increasing the weight just that little bit. When I compare what I was pulling and pushing 12 weeks ago to what I can do now, the difference is huge.
  8. You are stronger than you think. I’m not referring to physical strength, but mental strength. Undertaking a challenge (of any kind) should require you to push your mind to places you never thought you could go. Don’t run from the challenge. Instead, embrace it and see just how far you can go. There is no shame in failing. Only in giving up before you give it a go.
  9. Focus on what you DO HAVE and what you CAN DO.  It is very easy to make excuses as to why you don’t achieve what you say you want to achieve. But if you are serious, you won’t let obstacles stand in your way. No one has all the resources they need at their disposal. Sometimes money or time may be limited. Sometimes you need more knowledge or experience. Instead of using these limitations as excuses why you can’t achieve something, focus on what you do have and can do. When you take action, things begin to fall into place. And the very obstacles that you saw standing in your way are no longer there — because you have found a path to take in spite of them.
  10. Don’t be surprised if the true value of the experience is not what you intended. You may be embarking on a challenge or working towards a dream for a particular reason. For example, you may enter a half-marathon to ‘tick it off your bucket list’. Or you may wish to go back to study because it will mean you have a higher earning capacity in your career. While those reasons for undertaking the challenge are great, the true value that you get out of achieving those things is likely to be something you never even thought of.

I have my final measurements tomorrow morning and then this challenge is over.

While I am a little anxious about what they will be (I always put too much pressure on myself and set high expectations), I know that I can already be proud of what I have achieved this time around.

Even if I don’t achieve all that I set out to achieve, I am certainly a lot closer to my goal than I was 12 weeks ago.

I am already thinking about my next set of goals, and know that whatever may come along, I am better equipped to reach them, than I was 12 weeks ago.

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It’s Birthday Season!

I love this time of the year. In fact, Spring is my favourite season.birthday cake

In our family, it is also birthday season. October heralds the beginning of a run of birthdays that continues all the way through to the end of January. There are not so many now my beloved grandparents are no longer celebrating earthly birthdays — but still there are quite a few to get through by the time you count in immediate family, aunts and uncles and extended family. There are also a number of friends who blow out candles at this time of the year, so most weeks, there is some kind of cake on offer.

Growing up, my family always made a fuss of birthdays. There would be presents and cards, and cake and my grandparents would always come over to see us after school and stay for dinner. Mum used to ask what we would like for dinner and what type of cake we would like, and our birthday dinner was always something to look forward to. Birthdays were always exciting.

When I was young, I always knew when my birthday was coming up, simply by the changing of the seasons. I lived in Queensland, across the road from a golf course. As soon as September arrived, the golf course would get that sweet summery smell. The plovers would begin nesting and calling out at night, and the transition into summer PJs would occur.

A few days out, cards would arrive in the mail and the sense of excitement would begin to grow.

During my University years, the jacarandas would begin to bloom in October. If anyone has ever been to The University of Queensland in October, you know it’s a sight to behold. For most of my fellow students, it was a bad sign, as it meant exams were on the horizon. Me, I loved them. Not only did they remind me of the tree my grandparents had in their front yard, but they were yet another sign my birthday was almost here.

Even though the number of candles on my cake increase each year, there is still a sense of excitement. But it’s not about what presents I will get and what fuss will be made of me, as it was in my younger years.

The excitement lies in watching my children get excited when my birthday comes along. For a couple of weeks, they think about what to buy. A few days before, paper, pens and pencils come out to make birthday cards, and the night before, there is much secrecy in our bedroom as they wrap their hand-picked presents, ready to give me the next day. All part of the birthday traditions in our house.

It’s nice to carry on traditions, I think. And while each family develops their own birthday traditions, I hope that the traditional excitement that birthdays bring is one that will never die.

Tell me, what birthday traditions do you carry on?

How not to be better than everyone else

Let’s face it, our culture is very competitive. While there is nothing wrong with competing on the sporting field (see my post on  The rules about winning), competition can get out of hand. You may think you are not a competitive person, but you probably compete without even knowing it.excellence

We all compete when applying for a job. We compete for a car-park at the shopping centre (especially leading up to Christmas!) Many of us try to ‘out-do’ each other when it comes to kids’ birthday parties, or which car we drive. Our kids are already competing with each other with regard to which electronic device they have, or how many ‘friends’ they have on Facebook. I’m certainly guilty of competing when it comes to Scrabble!

Competition according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is defined as ‘the act or process of trying to get or win something (such as a prize or a higher level of success), that someone else is also trying to get or win’.

And while competition is fine at one level, it can very quickly get out of hand.

You see, while we are busy trying to be better than everyone else and ‘win the prize’, we lose the gist of what competition is really about — Excellence.

Our primary school has five over-riding values — Respect, Excellence, Confidence, Responsibility and Resilience. Five great values, if you ask me.

At the start of the year, all students discuss what each value means to them. They write them up and they become the values of the classroom. My son’s year level came up with the following statements to define Excellence:

Doing our best — aiming high!
Having a go and learning from your mistakes
Thinking – “I can do it”

My daughter’s grade 2 class came up with this:

Practicing and working hard at everything we do, to be the best we can be.

Awesome!

Nowhere does it say ‘being better than everyone else’.

The problem that arises when you try to be better than everyone else is that you forget about improving yourself. You’re too busy focussing on what everybody else is doing, and trying to do ‘better’ than they are, rather than spending time developing yourself. The focus on ‘doing your best and aiming high’ has been replaced with ‘getting the better of’ someone else.

When we compete, we often end up comparing someone else’s ‘outer’ (or our perception of them), to our ‘inner’. Which is sort of ridiculous. It’s like saying that bananas are better than swimming pools. But many people, especially kids, don’t get that. In their eyes, you are either a ‘winner’ or a ‘loser’.

Which leads to the emotional difference between competing, and striving for excellence.

Competing to win can set someone up for a fall. In most competitions there is only one winner. So where does that leave everyone else? If you only focus upon the outcome of winning, then your success is tied up in victory. If you are not victorious, you are not a success, in other words, you are a ‘loser’. You are not good enough. You need to ‘perform better, do better’. Blah blah blah.

Competing sets you up for jealousy. If you are so focused on the end result, it is easy to envy your competitor for their victory over you. And this green-eyed monster can make it very difficult to see where you can make improvements. Because where there is jealousy, there is also often blame — reasons why you didn’t win. “I was too tired, the referee made a bad call, someone pushed me over, it wasn’t fair”, etc. etc.

But striving for excellence is a whole new ball game. Striving for excellence leads to positive self-esteem, and finding value in yourself for your efforts, rather than in the end result. Striving for excellence enables you to set goals and feel good about achieving them, regardless of what everyone else is doing. Aiming for excellence empowers you to keep trying harder, to be a better version of yourself than you were before. Which leads to confidence. And confidence means you can keep striving for excellence in all you do, for you know there is never failure.

Keeping the focus on excellence also means that there is little room for jealousy. If you did the very best you could have in whatever circumstances, then how can you be jealous of someone else who did the same? I would even go so far to say that being your best self and focusing on being your own ‘excellent self’ opens you up to cheer on someone else for their efforts and achievements, something I wrote about earlier this year (Are you a dream-stealer or a dream-weaver?).

When we strive for excellence, we all win; because excellence can mean different things to different people. It can mean running 5km without walking. It can mean not eating chocolate for a week. It might mean practicing your handwriting. Perhaps it is joining a sporting team for the first time. Maybe even speaking in public without getting nervous or putting in your best effort in an exam.

If you truly want to rise to new levels, stop trying to ‘beat’ everyone else there. Focus on being your most excellent self, and you will be surprised at how quickly and effortlessly you will get there.

Sorry. I’ve been too busy laughing.

This week the kids went back to school. After two weeks of not getting much writing done, I was looking forward to getting into routine. My husband was also travelling with his job that week, which meant the evenings would be even quieter than usual. (Yeah!)

My sister is one of the people in this world who can always make me laugh - big, deep belly laughs.

My sister is one of the people in this world who can always make me laugh – big, deep belly laughs.

Monday I greeted the day with enthusiasm (unlike my kids who would have loved to have another week off!). We quickly slotted back into the morning routine and got to school without any problems. I kissed them goodbye and waved them off, feeling quite cheery. I was really looking forward to my morning coffee in a quiet house.

But first, I had to go and do some grocery shopping seeing as the kids had eaten me out of house and home. By the time I shopped, brought it home and unpacked it, a few hours had disappeared. It seemed like I had only just got into the ‘zone’ for writing when it was time to down tools to pick up the kids and head off to basketball.

Tuesday I had set aside this day to go and help my sister with her business venture. My mum came as well, so I dropped off the kids, picked up my mum and drove to the other side of Melbourne (where my sister lives). Our day wasn’t as productive as we had hoped, but we did get some work done. Mostly however, it was coffee, cake and lots and lots of belly laughs.

Wednesday Not a lot of time for work today either and I felt mildly stressed that I hadn’t written this week’s blog. Up early for my workout, get the kids off to school, a quick stop at the shops, two loads of washing and a trip to the hairdresser. That was all before lunch. My parents were coming over for dinner that night for my mum’s birthday, so I whipped up a cake and got it in and out of the oven before school pickup. Then it was basketball training, get the washing in and organise dinner. Definitely no work being done today, but once again, there were smiles and laughter in my day. My two kids celebrated their Nana Jude’s birthday with their home-made cards, lots of hugs and kisses, games of cards and my daughter performed a song she had written especially for my mum.

Thursday My beautiful mum’s birthday today. My sister and I had organised to take her out for lunch with other members of our family. So up early, a quick workout, drop off the kids to school (yes, I was still hot and sweaty and looked terrible), and back home to shower and get ready. Lunch was lovely and yes, lots of laughs featured on the menu. Time flew by and all of a sudden, it was time to pack up and do school pick-up, and get my son to tennis training.

Friday What! Friday already? Where did the week go? Gym session at 5.30am, usual morning routine followed by a quick coffee with a friend and then a few more groceries. Today has been a better day work-wise, as I finally finished and submitted an article I hope to get published. Once again however, the writing time went way too quickly and before I knew it, it was off to pick up the kids and head off to my daughter’s basketball game.

And just like that, the week is gone.

As I look back over this week, it’s clear that I didn’t get done what I expected to get done. I have lots of leads and business-building activities yet to complete, articles to write, research to be done, not to mention a house that needs cleaning and a pile of ironing that is developing a life of its own!

But while my week wasn’t what I had hoped, it did yield things more valuable than what I had initially planned — time with family, time with friends and most of all the barrel-loads of laughter I shared with my mum and my sister.

And when you have laughed as much as I have this week, you know it’s been a good week.

Are you a dream-weaver, or a dream-stealer?

words by nerissa

Many of us have dreams, goals, things we want to accomplish. Unfortunately for most people, their dreams only ever remain that — a dream or a wish.make your dreams come true

Why is that?

Imagine what our world would be like if we all went about achieving what we were truly capable of. Seriously… take and minute and think of all the unlocked potential in the world (or at least in your immediate circle).

I’m sure you have had at some point, some goals you wanted to achieve. I’d also hazard a guess that many of these are unfulfilled.

If we really want to achieve something, then why don’t we just get on with it?

I believe it is because we’re afraid of how others will react.

After all, what do most of us do to people who succeed? We cut them down!

What could they possibly be doing that’s legal, to be…

View original post 752 more words

The rules of winning

When it comes to sport and competing, my son has one of the best attitudes of anyone I know. Which is pretty remarkable since he is only 10 years old.sometimes you win

When it comes to performing on the sports field, most of his peers are interested in winning — aka coming first. Whether it is an individual sport or a team sport, many of them are concerned with the score at the end and where they came. If they are not on the podium, then many of them get upset.

I have seen kids weeping and berating themselves for not winning a match, or coming first in their race. I have heard parents tell them that they needed to work harder or do better. And I have seen the look on these kids’ faces when they truly believe they weren’t good enough, simply because they failed to meet expectations  —  often those of their parents.

My husband and I never wanted that for our kids. But in a world where you are encouraged to be ‘better than everyone else’, the message about winning and losing can be misinterpreted.

So once our kids were old enough to understand the basics, we explained the rules about winning.

Rule #1: It’s important to participate. After all, there is no way you can possibly ‘win’ if you are not even part of the game.

Rule #2: Enjoy the experience. Have fun while you are competing.

Rule #3: Always do your best. We have often told our kids that we would be more proud of them for doing their best and coming last, than not trying at all and coming first. They know that no matter what the outcome, they can be proud if they have done their best.

But one of the most important rule we discussed was Rule #4: You will never win all the time. Unless you learn to be a gracious ‘loser’ and to accept you didn’t come first without excuses, blame and self-berating, you will never be a good winner. Ever. By all means look at how you can make improvements, but never, ever put yourself down or allow others to do it for you. Ever.

They are our rules about winning. And our kids know that if they don’t abide by these rules, then they don’t get to play.

My son started playing after-school basketball when he was 6. He wasn’t very good. He wasn’t particularly tall and he wasn’t particularly gifted at the game. His first goal was a fluke and it took another 10 months before he got his next goal. Often, when I would tuck him into bed, long after the game had finished and he’d had his bath and dinner, he’d ask: “Did we win?” Obviously the score was not important to him.

As he has grown he has got better at the game. He is still not a gifted basketball player like some of his peers, but he works hard and listens to his coaches. And he plays reasonably well.

But most importantly, he loves the game and he loves challenging himself.

He has played in a few Grand Finals and only won one of them. And while he was disappointed in the result, he was not devastated, like some of his friends.

After the game I would ask him if he was disappointed. He would say, “Well, a bit. But it’s only a game and winning is not everything. At least we had a chance to play.” I would then ask him if he was happy about how he played the game. Always, the answer was “yes”. What a winner!

My son is quite sporty. But he doesn’t excel at anything in particular. He enjoys a range of different sports and does reasonably well with whatever he tries. He represents his school in District Athletics, District Cross Country and District Tennis. He plays inter-school sport and after-school basketball.

But the thing I am most proud of when it comes to his sporting prowess, is his winning attitude. He is always willing to be involved, always doing his best, always accepts the results, always quick to congratulate the opposition and always happy with the experience, no matter what the outcome. In my eyes, he is a true winner.

Winning is not always about coming first, or winning the prize and beating everyone else.

Winning can be:

  • Stepping out of your comfort zone to try new things
  • Participating in something even though you are nervous or worried to do so
  • Setting your own goals and working hard at them
  • Setting your own goals and achieving them
  • Giving everything a go, no matter how skilled you are at it
  • Shaking hands with the person who beat you and congratulating them on their win
  • Helping others reach their goals, while putting yours to the side
  • Competing with a smile on your face
  • Being someone or doing something that inspires others to be better people.

This week, I saw the video posted below. I have seen it before, but it truly is an awesome reminder of what sport (and winning) really should be about.

Take a moment to watch it. I guarantee, it will be the best thing you will see today.

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