by Oli on February 24, 2013
Since travelling on packed-out, wedged-in tubes at peak time isn’t a terribly sensible idea for the heavily immuno-suppressed and since I’m not yet rich enough to have a private driver whisk me round the streets of our capital, I’ve taken to walking a lot more.
And, let me tell you, it’s been pretty enlightening.
I’m embarrassed to confess I’ve never walked a lot. I grew up in Milton Keynes, the first English city to be laid out on a grid system and designed for the car rather than the pedestrian, so I was always used to driving or being driven everywhere.
Then, obviously, I was quite ill for a time which meant I didn’t do much of anything, including what little walking one can do around MK in the main shopping centre and the theatre district where all the nightlife is.
When I worked in London for 9-months last year, it was for a production company that focused on disability, run by disabled people, so I often acted as chauffeur to the producers and directors on each shoot, or simply driving the team to meetings.
But driving around London did teach me one thing (unless you count how annoying/frustrating/irritating and aggravating driving and drivers in London are): it’s not actually that big.
Certainly, it’s a metropolis of different lifestyles, cultures and rhythms, but it’s possible to get across large parts of it relatively quickly.
All of which inspired me to start looking at walking routes whenever I Google Mapped the addresses I was headed to.
And I started to walk.
Why I now choose walking
Once I started walking, it became kind of addictive. You see things from a different perspective. You have the choice to stop, to linger, to consider things you see, rather than keeping your eyes on the road or being whisked ever-onwards by public transport.
I started to notice not just the diversity, but the personality of the areas I was walking through – the little coffee shops and tea-houses, some of which were packed with locals who clearly know best.
I started to see the people of London as more than just an amorphous blob of “Londoners”.
And I started to give myself time to think.
It’s not often in the busy lives we lead that we can take time out for ourselves. Especially working in social media, I always feel a pressure to be checking what’s happening, seeing if there’s anything that needs replying to or finding new content to be sharing.
Walking around London, I started to enjoy the time I had just to walk, to think and to be myself, within myself, without chance to distract myself with something work-related.
I think we all have a habit of rushing: we rush to get to places, we rush to complete things, we rush to respond to emails, text-messages, Tweets or Facebook posts. Rarely do I take the time to sit, think and wonder.
Which is why I’m going to start walking more. Whether in London or at home in the evenings after work, I’m going to choose to step away and spend time in my own head, in my own company, digesting and processing my day.
I think we can all do with a little more “me time” and lacing up some comfortable shoes and taking ourselves out into the fresh air for a stroll is the perfect way to do it.
by Oli on January 9, 2013
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there has been a major glut in ‘Why New Year’s Resolutions Suck’ posts since the turn of the year.
The strange thing is that even thought people spend a lot of time griping about how awful they are, they still seem to make them. And the biggest issue with any kind of resolution is the kick in the teeth you get when you fail.
This isn’t one of those posts, I promise.
But I did set myself some monthly goals to achieve this year, starting with January’s 3: eating right, daily exercise and daily writing. And success for these is largely subjective: whatever I deem good enough is good enough.
This week, though, I had my attempts to follow-through on my resolutions kicked squarely up the butt by a friend – and completely inadvertently on his part, too.
A bad start
Daily exercise is something I’ve always struggled with. As I’ve written about before, I throw myself into things that are beyond my capability and end up injured, demoralised or ill. Or all three. Which sucks.
The idea of my daily exercise goal wasn’t to hop on a get-fit-quick bandwagon and end up in my usual situation of running for two days then realising I can’t run then abandoning all hope of ever being able to run and then wallowing in a pit of junk-food-laden self-pity on the couch. It was designed to follow the little-and-often maxim and, hopefully, to develop positive habits for the rest of the year.
But I didn’t.
Getting in from work in the evening I’d be tired, it would be cold outside, I’d not really want to go anywhere other than the sofa and my bed.
And I wasn’t sleeping well, despite being tired.
Then, on Monday night, I read an update on Facebook that said:
I have exercised every day since New Year. Today I have clocked up 90 mins of brisk walking. Not much to some but for me that’s impressive seeing as this time last year I could barely stand up without excruciating pain. #grateful
That one word hashtag at the end (let’s leave aside how irritating and pointless hashtags on Facebook are for a moment, because I like this dude and, well, it seemed to work!) made all the difference to me.
I know GB (the dude in question) had a rough ride over the last few years, to which he alludes in the post. And I realised that my lack of inspiration and motivation to get out there and do anything at all to try to develop positive habits and achieve my goals wasn’t just lazy; it was ungrateful.
All of a sudden, from apparently nowhere, I was hit by a stark realisation: of all the things I’ve used to try to drive me, of all the motivational videos I’ve YouTube’d, all the incentives I’ve tried to give myself, none will ever be as strong as the feeling that I’m not being grateful enough for my life.
My donor has afforded me opportunities I genuinely never thought I’d have and although I say I’m grateful and thankful every day, my actions seem to belie those words.
It’s time for me to live what I believe, to match my deeds to my thoughts, to accept the hard things and to remember there’s always someone worse off than more. It’s time to smile through it…
Find your own gratitude
The point is we all have our own spur. We all have something that will connect with us, drive us, keep us going when it gets really tough.
It’s not always apparent what this is and, while we may think we’ve nailed it, a large part of the reason we fail at things like New Year’s resolutions is that we haven’t truly found our motivational force.
For me, it took the example and evidence of gratitude – and my own fears and desires not to be seen as ungrateful – to find the thing that gets me off the sofa and out into the cold, dark evening to walk the village as I have done since Monday.
For you, it may be the motivation of a big challenge, to raise money for charity or dedication to supporting someone else. Whatever it may be, don’t try to find it in anyone else: it will be yours and yours alone.
Have you found yours yet? Let us know what it is in the comments below or on Twitter.
by Oli on December 29, 2012
I’ve never much been one for changing everything up because another year is ticking over on the calendar but there is an undeniable pull around the adding of a digit to the year that makes it a good place to take pause.
I don’t do Near Year’s Resolutions, they more often end in disappointed and recriminations (on myself) than anything else, so this is simply an analysis of things I want to achieve this year.
In no particular order:
1. Achieve a physical challenge
The 3 Peaks has eluded me through rejection and brain-popping twice before, so I’m hoping it will be third time lucky on my birthday in May this year. I’ve spent too long sitting back and planing/wishing for things I want to achieve, 2013 is the year to go out and make it happen.
2. Write another book
Releasing Smile Through It has really brought into focus how much I love writing and having a hard-copy in my hands has made me realise that publishing things is something I want to do a lot more of. I know that I’m quite likely to out-think my capabilities (ie, want to publish a lot more than I’m capable of), so having another book out in time for Christmas next year seems like a good goal to aim for.
3. Travel more
Last year we had trips to Hawaii (for the honeymoon) and Italy (for the bro’s wedding) as well as a few jaunts around the UK, but this year I want to start exploring a little more and getting to know these fair isles even if we don’t make it over to the continent.
4. Be more confident in business
Last year’s failure of my freelancing dented my confidence quite severely. Having to take a ‘proper job’ was so anathema to me I struggled to come to terms with it before I landed well and truly on my feet at World Vision in September. Taking that role has made me realise that not only do I genuinely know what I’m talking about when it comes to social media, but I’m also damn good at it. In the past I’ve been reluctant to promote myself, but this year I want to stop shying away from the fact that I’m good at what I do and start offering my services more widely than before. I started with a new landing page about me and what I do.
5. Be more confident in myself
As somewhat of an extrovert, I manage to convince a lot of people that I’m a hugely self-confident person when in fact I’m pretty far from it. I’m uncomfortable meeting new people, feel awkward in big social situations and wish I were more attractive, fitter and healthier. This year I want to make a real effort to not just project confidence, but to be confident.
In order to help keep things on target for the 12 months ahead, I’m going to be setting myself small monthly goals along the way, something for me to keep track of and to publish to keep myself accountable. January is going to be a really busy month as I’m heavily involved in a major new campaign that World Vision will be playing a significant part in, which launches towards the end of the month, so I want to be kind to myself and not put too much pressure on.
1. Exercise daily – even if it’s just a short walk around the block, I will make sure I do something each day.
2. Eat healthily – I’m going to start following Tim Ferris’s Slow-Carb Diet and be far stricter with myself.
3. Write daily – whether it be blog posts, scripts for films I’m working on or parts of my new book, I want to achieve an hour of writing every day.
I don’t know if I’m setting the bar too high for myself here, but if I don’t try I won’t know (as with all things in life). I also don’t know if these goals are too generalised and not specific enough to keep me motivated when the cold, dark days fight to get the better of me, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
I’d love for you to share your goals and plans for 2013 here, too. What one thing would you most like to achieve by the end of January – it could be super-specific or totally general, but join in and we can all help each other stay accountable. You can also keep tabs on me (and keep me in line) by following me on Twitter or joining me on Google+.
Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013 for each and every one of us.
by Oli on December 22, 2012
I’m astonished logging in to the blog today to discover it’s been a month since I last wrote here. Why so? And why write now, at midnight on a Friday?
Because I’ve just read this and because I’ve had one of the most wonderful weeks of my life where I finally found peace with who I am, what I want to achieve and the knowledge and faith that if I want to, I will.
I wrote to my mailing list a couple of weeks ago about how disappointed I’ve been in myself recently. I’ve tried new things and failed. I’ve retried old things and failed again. I should have been celebrating the release of my first book and instead I was focusing on the negative things in my life and how ‘hard’ things were.
And yes, you’re right to scoff; how hard can life really be when I’ve just published a book that describes my journey that culminated in my being about as close to death as it’s possible to be while still breathing and moving around.
The truth is, I’d lost my way.
I’d lost the focus on the things in life that make me smile.
I’d lost my belief in myself and my dreams, that I can make things happen if only I put my mind to them.
I’d lost my understanding of the world around me and my place in it.
I was fearful; scared of a future I couldn’t predict, never realising that no one can.
I felt insignificant, I felt lost, I felt directionless and unable to see through the fog.
And then this week I spent a day with a group of people I greatly admire, hugely respect and feel an enormous amount of love for. And sharing the day with them, opening ourselves up to the world around us and to the spiritual world we wanted to share helped not only connect with my beliefs, but also with the inner sense of self I’d lost.
I’ve been crying out for an answer to my questions, all the while ignoring the signs for what I know to be true.
So far from being a downbeat and reflective post bemoaning the downfall and deletion of this blog – after all, what did I have to say the world any more – it’s an opportunity for me to wish you all an amazing end to 2012 (now the world hasn’t ended).
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, that you celebrate the festivities in whatever way befits your beliefs (even if that’s not at all), and I hope you welcome 2013 with open arms and fresh excitement for what the world has to offer each and every one of us.
I don’t expect next year to be all green grass and rose-tinted, but I do hope that it delivers on the promise of the end of 2012.
The blog will be back in the new year; changed, perhaps, but still the same me, with the same beliefs and the same will to show you all that it doesn’t matter where you come from or where you’re going, only what you choose to do with where you are right now.