How To Do Everything And Be Happy

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Lighting My Life – WTFHIBD episode 8 (part 2)

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Last week I started to tell you What The Flippin’ Heck I’ve Been Doing with my life, and I talked a little about how I’ve rediscovered the joy of Boxing Day. You can read that post here.

This week I’d like to talk about…

My NOW List

For those of you who don’t know (where have you been??) a NOW List is basically a Bucket List, but you’re not going to wait until the end is nigh before tackling the items on the list. (If you don’t know what a Bucket List is, go have a listen to this radio interview).

I think I’ve confessed this on a previous blog, but whilst so many people love the idea of a NOW List I actually find it a struggle to tick things off.

Part of the problem is that most of the things I’d really like to do require either time and/or money – and like many people, I’m short on both!

HOWEVER, a few weeks back I FINALLY got to check off an item which has been sitting on my NOW List for YEARS!! (So long in fact, I thought it might have been mentioned in the book… that really would have been embarrassing)

The item was this: GO INSIDE A LIGHTHOUSE.

Quite why it took me so long to get around to it is a bit of a mystery; of all the things I’ve done over the years, this was probably one of the cheapest (£4 a head, plus petrol) and easiest to organise.

And was it worth it? You betcha. You can see from these pictures that I had a stupid grin plastered all over my face, and a week later it was still there.

It was such a successful trip that it renewed my enthusiasm for the old NOW List. I grabbed my diary and set aside an afternoon to plan my next adventure, which resulted in me adding two new items, and booking them, for the coming weeks.

               

But less about me.

Have you ticked anything off your NOW List recently? Why not let me know in the comments (if you’re reading this on the blog or social media).

Come Back Next Week…

…When I’ll be telling you about my Goals. Until then…


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NOW that’s what I call WTFHIBD episode 7… part 2

nicole kidman

This week I’ll be telling you how I’ve been applying my ‘happy’ principals to my life, in a feature that I like to call What The Flippin’eck Have I Been Doing…

Yesterday I talked about GOALs – click here to read that post – but today let’s find out what I’ve managed to tick off my NOW list over the past year.

My NOW List

So, since the last WTFHIBD post, it’ll probably come as no great surprise that most of my energy has been spent concentrating on goals, rather than my NOW list. Or to put it another way – I’ve been desperately trying to make a living, and ‘enjoying myself’ hasn’t been my primary focus. Which I admit is probably a mistake, and one that I’m endeavouring to rectify going forwards – because even if making a living has to be the primary focus, I’m firmly of the belief that it too should be FUN, and anything but desperate.

That said, somehow I have managed to tick a handful of items off the NOW list in the past twelve months. Let me walk you through the highlights…

Theatre

I love theatre. I get as excited about the theatre as most people do about going on holiday. For me, going to the theatre feels like a holiday! Unsurprising then that I made it the theme of my latest novel, and about two years ago I made the conscious effort to see at least one item of live theatre every single month.

Now that’s easier said than done – and somewhat expensive – but in the last twelve months I have managed to see at least one production a month, sometimes more, and all without breaking the bank.

(Very occasionally I blog about the shows I’ve seen – as well as movies and books – over on my other blog)

dawn french

Nell Gwynne

 

private lives

“A different wine with every meal”

This has been on my NOW list for the longest time. I’m not even sure how it got on there in the first place, or why the idea appealed to me so much, but at the back end of last year I got treated to a five course dinner, with matching wines, at the Jugged Hare near the Barbican. And it was everything I hoped it would be. Despite having a stinking cold, we rolled out of the restaurant satiated and very merry.

Well worth adding to your list if the Jugged Hare are still running the promotion.

Hidden London

It’s well known that beneath our capital city are numerous tunnels and tube stations which for one reason or another have long since been abandoned. Every now and then I’d come across pictures of these eery places on the internet, and eventually decided that I didn’t want to look at pictures… I wanted to see it for myself.

After a bit of googling I discovered that The London Transport Museum very, very occasionally do tours to the abandoned sections of London Underground network, and so three weeks ago I donned a fluorescent jacket, and disappeared under Euston station for an hour or so.

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Going forwards

 

In a few weeks I’m finally going to have a go on a segway, but in the meantime you can keep track of my NOW List adventures by LIKING the How To Do Everything And Be Happy facebook page.

But enough about me

How about you? What NOW List items have you checked off? Feel free to drop me a line, here or on facebook, or post a comment below.

And pop back tomorrow to find out whether I’m still having a Boxing Day once a month.


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Turning failure into possibilities – WTFHIBD episode 6

bright-ideas

Blimey! Has it been 9 months since I wrote one of these WTFHIBD things?? Where does the time go? Actually that’s kinda the point of these WTFHIBD posts; to tell you exactly what I’ve been spending my time on.

Let’s start with GOALS.

My GOALS

2014 turned into something of a damp squib for me. Whilst a lot of good things happened, on balance it was pretty much ‘the year of disappointments’. People often tell me I’m too tough on myself, but as summer rolled into autumn all I could see was failure, failure, failure… in every aspect of my life.

But around January, and as I sat down to set my GOALs for the year I somehow managed to summon some of the fight that I’d lost in previous months, and although my 2015 goals didn’t look a whole lot different from previous years, perhaps I altered my approach to them, because even though it felt like I was starting again, at the same time the only way was up; I’d already failed at everything – it would be hard to fail even more. Success was actually the easier option.

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I BECAME ‘SELF-HELP GURU TURNED NOVELIST’

Having watched my debut lad-lit, rom-com novel  – The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl – climb the charts in September… only to come crashing back down to earth again… I took the somewhat odd decision to start sending it out to agents and publishers again. On the one hand this seemed like a bad idea; I would be trying to sell a book that was already published. On the other, I could point at lots of nice reviews, the fact it did rather well during it’s first promotion, and my previous non-fiction successes. Surely that would make me, and the book, an attractive proposition?

Amazon 2015-07-09 at 12.28.14Well, six months later and I had indeed got myself a new agent… and in turn a publicity deal with amazon!

The book underwent another edit, the cover got brighter, and after a little help from Kylie Minogue (sort of), amazon made it part of their July 99p Summer Reads promotion. It’s back up near the top of the charts …and it’s doing ok! Better than ok!

If you fancy a chuckle, as well as keeping me in the book business, now would be a very good time to spend a quid at the world’s biggest bookstore.

I STARTED MY NEXT BOOK

One of last year’s many failures was a five part serial that I wrote for a particularly well known woman’s magazine. After a full sixteen weeks of consideration, the fiction editor of magazine-that-cannot-be-named decided that it wasn’t really ‘real-world’ enough for their readers, and that she was going to pass up the opportunity of publishing it.

In the same week however, my new agent decided that actually it was a cracker of story – and could quite easily be expanded into a full length novel. My next novel. And so, Facebook pals have been subjected to almost daily word count updates, whilst readers of my other blog have been perplexed by various posts about how I use excel spreadsheets to write

selfieI STARTED GIVING MORE TALKS

One of my few successes last year were the number of talks I was asked to give.

Whereas previously I’d been giving the odd talk to Women’s Institutes and Town’s Women’s Guilds – suddenly the U3A, the Rotary Club, the Trefoil Society, and numerous independent clubs and societies started to invite me along based on recommendations from those who’d heard me speak elsewhere.

As the year ended I realised that public speaking is pretty much one of the things I love most… and so I came up with a second talk (entitled: How I Met Kylie Minogue) and offered it to all those folk who were kind enough to invite me along the first time. The result is I’m now doing a talk at least once a week (this week I’ve done three!) – and whilst it’s hardly a living, it has relieved a little bit of the pressure I’ve been putting myself under to make a living from writing alone.

If you’d like me to come and talk to your group or society – drop me a line

My NOW List

foggsLet’s move on from GOALS. What have I been doing for fun? (Not that writing isn’t fun – but you know what I mean…)

The NOW List is chock-a-block with exciting things that I’d absolutely love to do… sadly, most require time, money, often both, and I have neither.

That said, whilst I still haven’t managed to visit the Cook Islands, or visit Rome again, or anything that requires a plane trip, I have ticked off many items that I could do relatively cheaply, in around my local area. And some of those things included…

  • A visit to Mr Foggs of Mayfair. A strangely wonderful place.
  • My quest to find the strangest, experimental theatrical performances once a month – in the past few weeks I’ve seen improvised puppet shows, naked people rolling around in food, and a disturbing monologue about fantasy movies…
  • A visit to a junk shop that I’ve driven past many times and always wanted to go inside
  • A day at the beach with my very own luxury beach hut at my disposal
  • An evening at one of London’s Roof Top cinemas

But enough about me

How about you? What have you been up to? What NOW List items have you managed to tick off? What goals have you set yourself or achieved? Feel free to drop me a line, here or on facebook, or post a comment below.


 


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Boats, Bubbles, and Becoming Me; WTFHIBD episode 5

scubaYou know it’s about time I wrote another WTFHIBD blog post. After all I made a deal with my brother; regular WTFHIBD updates! So here we go again. Let’s start with my NOW List

My Now List

I’ve managed to tick off two NOW List items since I my last update; and I can’t really take credit for organising either of them.

For Christmas Jules – my long suffering assistant – bought me a Scuba lesson! Scuba is something that I always wanted to try as a kid. I remember begging Mum to let me join a club or something… and the barely concealed relief on her face when she told me I had to be at least eighteen years old. Then I turned eighteen. But now that I was big enough and ugly enough to send myself to scuba club… it just never happened.

I even had friends who learnt to dive and still I never got around to looking into it.

But… put it on a NOW List, make that NOW List public, and you’ll be surprised what can happen.

wiltonLike ‘HMS Wilton‘ for instance.

Not far from where I live there’s an old battle ship (a coastal mine sweeper to be precise). It serves as HQ of the Essex Yacht Club and for the longest time I’ve wanted to get aboard and look about. Not much of a problem you’d think – except that it’s not open to the public, and until recently there was no way of sending the Yacht Club any kind of message from their website!

Then one morning, a few weeks back, Della went for a run down there with Maggie her white German Shepherd and happened to bump into someone just locking the Yacht Club gates. Ten minutes of “oh what a lovely dog!” and “do you ever open this boat to the public?” later and she had arranged a personal tour from the chairman.

Goals

Last time I wrote a WTFHIBD post I mused about the importance of being true to yourself, and how it’s all too easy to get swept up in other people’s expectations of who and what you should be.

I’m ashamed to say that I’m still having thoughts along those lines all these months later. But after some significant soul searching it does feel like I might finally be getting to the bottom of them – like I might be recapturing some of the energy and drive that set me off on this journey in the first place.

TGGGTGTG drop shadowPart of the reason for this might be because I’ve made significant headway with one of the goals that came out of the Vision Exercise I put myself through a while back; ten years after Kate made me sit down and start writing it I’ve finally published a work of fiction – my debut novel (The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl) came out in paperback and as an ebook a few days ago. I am officially a novelist!

I was a little nervous about putting it out there, but so far I’m delighted with the response.

But enough about me

How about you? What have you been up to? What NOW List items have you managed to tick off? What goals have you set yourself or achieved? Feel free to drop me a line, here or on facebook, or post a comment below.


 


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Phoenix FM Happy Club: How to make your Bucket List work!

Over the next few weeks I’ll be playing catch up with some of the radio interviews I’ve given over the past few months, including my ‘Happy Club’ slot of Michelle Ward‘s show on Phoenix98 FM.

This week we rewind the clock to April of this year when Michelle and I talked about Bucket Lists – and more importantly how to make them work. Click the big play button in the image below, or here if you’re reading this in an email.

We chat about the film ‘The Bucket List‘, how I decided to write a Bucket List of my own, and why I call mine a ‘Now List’. We also talk about the importance of starting your list even if you have no idea what you’d put on it, and how having a blank, ‘ready-to-go’ list seems to be a magnet for Bucket List ideas.

If you’ve already written a Bucket List then you might be interested in a couple of my other posts such as…

Want More Tips?

All four of my How To books are available in paperback, audio and for your kindle enabled device. In most cases the kindle versions are less than the price of a cup of coffee! Jeepers! Click here to find out more.

You don’t need a Kindle device to read a Kindle book. Download the FREE kindle app for your computer, smart phone or tablet from amazon (.co.uk | .com)


TGGGTGTG drop shadowDuring the show Michelle briefly mentions my debut novel, The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl, and I casually forget to tell her that it wasn’t actually published. Well the good news is it is finally available!

The official launch is September 12th 2014, when the ebook will be less than a quid for a very limited period, and I’ll be personally delivering copies to anyone who wants one (that last bit might not be true). Subscribe to this blog to be reminded of the launch nearer the time, but if you can’t wait to flick through the contents of my imagination, click here now.


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Being true; WTFHIBD episode 4

apples

It’s been a while since I wrote a WTFHIBD. Truth is I’ve been putting it off.  Contrary to how it seems, I’ve never really been a big fan of the lime light, not if that means sharing my true feelings with the world. True feelings are a private thing. To be kept inside. Hidden away. Revealed to no-one. Perhaps not even me.

But, I made a deal with my brother. Regular WTFHIBD updates! So here we go. Let’s start with my NOW List

My Now List

Much of last year was spent throwing myself into my career – finishing the three ‘How To’ books I was contractually obligated to write. The Now List never really got a look in, other than the occasional easy-to-accomplish item. But I never set foot out of the country. The Cook Islands remain undiscovered – at least so far as I’m concerned.

That said I paid a visit to Kew Gardens, I did spent a week in Devon, and whilst down there I did try my hand at archery. I also visited the Houses Of Parliament. And I tried (but ultimately failed) to see a play a month (though I did manage to see at least three stonking productions).

Goals

My Goals were more interesting. In some ways I achieved a great deal.

I now have four non-fiction books available in three formats (ebook, paperback and audio), and rarely a week goes by without one of them spawning an article in a magazine somewhere, an invite to give a talk someone, or a cheery note from a reader who felt moved enough to tell me they got something out of the words that I wrote. That’s a nice feeling. It makes me happy.

Of course, it would be even nicer if all this meant I didn’t still look at my bank balance with a degree of dread – but hey ho. Can’t have everything. Says the man who wrote the book suggesting that maybe you can.

The Vision Exercise

It were thoughts like those that caused me to have something of meltdown in the summer of last year and put aside a day to re-write those goals that seemed to be ‘wanting’ on the happiness front. In reality I simply sat myself down and spent four minutes imagining how I’d like my life to be, if money and commitments weren’t an issue, and one minute distilling those thoughts into a ‘vision’.

You can read what I came up with here but the vision exercise had quite a profound effect on me. It started me thinking that even though I’m doing a job that I very much enjoy, do I love it? Could I, when push comes to shove, be happier?

Around the time I was having these thoughts I went to my first swanky ‘publishing’ party at Kensington Palace.

I’m not a big fan of parties. There. I’ve admitted it. They tend to make me feel awkward and uncomfortable. I find myself relying on my theatre skills to shroud myself in the appearance of someone who’s having a good time, whilst inside I’m sweating buckets and counting the minutes till I can get out of there. My smiles, my handshakes, my nods and laughter – they’re all just techniques I’ve learnt to ‘fit in’.

As if that wasn’t stressful enough, hours before I was due to jump on a train I saw a facebook post from a fellow author suggesting that most people were going to be ‘dressing up’. It was, after all, the palace for God’s Sake! So I panicked. I dug out a beige suit (the one that I got married in when I was at least a stone or two heavier), a plain starchy shirt that I used to wear to the office, and a pair of never-worn-before smart brown shoes.

A few hours later, as I stood in an enormous hall, struggling to hear anything over the deafening roar of several hundred people making small talk, I started to feel like I didn’t really belong amongst these people. That despite wearing an official badge to the contrary I was going to be ‘discovered’ at any moment, declared a fraud, and man-handled by security out of the party before being thrown onto the streets of London. In my ill fitting suit. And shoes that were absolutely killing my feet.

Meanwhile various rock stars, standup comedians, and reality TV celebs rocked up when they wanted, wearing what they wanted, and contrary to the no-guests policy – with whoever they wanted. And I realised something profound. They were being themselves. Or at least a version of themselves that they themselves liked. And I came to the swift conclusion that I’d probably be an awful lot happier if I quit trying to fit in, trying to be the person I thought people wanted or expected me to be, and instead – just be… me. And if that didn’t work, well, so be it. I’d rather security escort me from the premises for being me – the real me – than for trying to be an ‘acceptable’ me.

Since the party I’ve thought about this a lot. Who am I? Really? What do I do? What do I want to do? Am I doing that thing? And if not… why not?

The answers are both complicated, and simple. But they’re a place to start.

In the meantime let me step out of the spotlight and turn it instead on you. Who are you? Really? What do you do? What do you want to do? Are you doing that thing? And if not

…why not?


 


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How You Gonna Have A Dream Come True?

Red Golf GTI

Today is the 66th day of the year. To put that into context, in just one week’s time 20% of 2014 will have GONE. How are those goals coming along?

Back in August of 2013, one of my readers (let’s call her… Jenny!) dropped me a line and asked if I could take a look at her goals which until then had failed to deliver any meaningful results. Well now, if you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that (for a small fee, I mean really small – quite pathetic in the general scheme of things) I’m only too happy to help with any aspect of concepts discussed in the book, and with this in mind Jenny and I booked a one-hour ‘Happy Talkie’ into the diary.

Without going into too many specifics Jenny’s goals did indeed require some tweaking. They were a little drab. A little unambitious. Extremely practical. In short, were she to achieve them there was every chance her overall happiness would remain exactly as it was.

And after some discussion (much of which revolved around whether she deserved to feel happy) we threw away the goals she had and created new ones.

We wrote a work goal designed to motivate Jenny into leaving her less-than-fulfilling desk job and going it alone. We wrote a goal designed to address her work life balance and make more of her free time. And finally we decided that she DOES deserve to be happy and that she should get herself that brand new Golf GTI she’s always wanted but was too shy / scared / {insert appropriate emotion here} to splash out on.

We made some other changes too, such as the introduction of a notepad to her usual handbag paraphernalia so that Jenny could start creating a NOW List when ideas presented themselves.

A few weeks later I got an email from Jenny telling me that her NOW List was growing nicely, she’d broken her ‘work’ goal into baby steps, and that finally she’d signed up for an evening class purely for interest/enjoyment. Things were going well.

She’d also found the following ‘motto’ (from “The Man Who Wanted to Be Happy” by Laurent Gounelle) which was now stuck to her bathroom mirror on a post-it note.

“In life you need to know how to aim straight at the goal”.

Well, six months later, in preparation for this blog, I dropped Jenny a line to see what the latest was.

Jenny’s self-employment hadn’t progressed any further – but only because when she came to discuss them with her employer they offered her a more senior, challenging role as part of their expansion plans!

As well as enjoying work, she was also spending her evenings and weekends making and selling items at craft fairs – just for fun!

And the VW Golf? Well apparently it’s still on the cards for the Spring.