Being true; WTFHIBD episode 4


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).


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?


Phoenix FM ‘Happy Club’: Dealing With Christmas / Stress List Day

If you’d prefer to ‘listen‘ to this post (rather than read it), scroll down to the bottom and click the big play button in the centre of the video box, or click here if you’re reading this in an email


Yes folks, it’s that time of year again; it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

For some that means mince pies and merriment, for others it’s mayhem and madness, but regardless of how you feel about the festive season one thing cannot be denied. It can be a tad stressful.

In addition to our usual busy lives, for one month, maybe more, most of us have to contend with (at least some) of the following:

  • Christmas preparation (presents, cards, etc. etc)
  • Other deadlines (“this must be finished before xmas”, “…before the end of year” etc)
  • Yet more deadlines / restrictions! (last posting day, office close down, system change-freeze, ‘Sunday’ service)
  • Adverse weather!
  • Rubbish driving conditions!! (more traffic, less daylight, adverse weather)
  • Extra social events (office party, clubs, kid’s panto)
  • Hang overs!
  • Colds and flu

Is it any wonder that some of us wish that Christmas only came around every other year, or every four years, or maybe once a century.

A few years back I came up with a solution to all this nonsense. Behold STRESS LIST DAY

Step 1: Make a List

Make a list of all the stuff that stressing you now

  • Not a general list; this is not an ‘Ugh List’
  • Only stuff that absolutely has to be sorted
  • Only stuff that keeps popping into your mind

There’s some very interesting research that shows that if you keep thinking about something other than the thing you’re supposed to be thinking about right now, you’re pretty much hard-wired to feel unhappy.

Here’s my stress list..

  • Christmas!
    • Cards
    • Presents
      • Niece
      • Parents
      • Brother in law
    • What does my sister want me to take on Christmas Day?
  • Clients
    • Client 1
    • Client 2
    • Client 3
  • Next book(s)
    • finish edits
    • agree cover
    • audio?
    • launch in January!

Step 2: Prioritise

Re-sort your list with the following in mind

  • Importance (how much trouble would I be in if this didn’t happen?)
  • Deadline dates (last posting date, event date, last working day)

 Step 3: Schedule Stress List Day

Take your diary and schedule 4 to 5 Stress List days / mornings / evenings (or however many days you think you’ll need) between now and a week or so before Christmas.

  • Better too many than not enough
  • Make the time! Cancel other things if you have to!

Just knowing you’ve set aside time to sort these things should make you feel better

Step 4: Work The List

On Stress List Day, work your list in order. You probably won’t feel much better after the first stress list day, but by the end of the second, and the third, when you’ve started to make a dent in that list, your overall stress levels should start to fall.

If it works for you schedule next years Stress List days now, a little earlier than this years.

By the way, books make GREAT Christmas Presents! Why not order a signed copy of How To Do Everything And Be Happy – only £6.00 (plus postage)

Listen to me discussing the Stress List on ‘Happy Club’ (Phoenix FM)

Last week I met up with the delightful Michelle Ward of Phoenix98 FM to discuss the Stress List and other happiness concepts. To listen to the show click the big play button in the image below – or if you’re reading this in an email, click here)

If you have a question for next month’s show feel free to drop me a line, post a comment below, tweet either myself or Michelle, or send me a message on facebook.

The theme for January will be ‘New Year – New You!

Michelle’s live on Phoenix FM every weekday from 10am.