How To Do Everything And Be Happy

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Trophy Board 2016

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Phew! Done it! I finally got around to clearing down my Trophy Board. Why finally? Because, for the first time in two decades, my A2 board wasn’t enough to hold all my ‘trophies’, and so back in October or November I added an A3 extension! To put it another way, whilst 2016 wasn’t the best year for a lot of folks, for me it was my busiest, ‘funnest’ (if that’s a word), year – EVER!

If you’re not really sure what a Trophy Board is, take a look at this earlier post (and extract from How To Do Everything And Be Happy) by clicking here.

Of course, a pin board isn’t the only way to capture memories. How about a Memory Box?memory-box

This one is available on Etsy here

 

Have another ‘trophy board’ idea? Share it in the comments. Or share your Trophy Board with other readers on the How To Do Everything And Be Happy facebook page – here.

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The Number One Goal of All Time

how-to-eat-loads-and-stay-slim-with-drop-shadow-copyIt’s a funny thing about running  Happiness Workshops, I’ve started to notice that the same ‘wishes‘ – and therefore thesame ‘goals‘ – come up time and time again.

Many people for instance want to embark on exotic trip around the world, visiting as many wondrous sites as possible. Others have burning desires to write a best seller (though asking to see someone’s ‘first chapter’ is usually enough to ensure they never come back to Happy Club ever again). But THE, number one goal – the one that perhaps half the attendees in any given workshop will share – is to lose weight.

And I can understand that, because I’ve been there too.

It seems to be the curse of the thirty / forty something. And not that long ago I too was standing in front of the mirror, wondering where on earth the skinny figure of my twenties went to, and why my body hated me so much. Of all the goals I’ve set myself over the years, shedding those extra pounds was one of the toughest.

Like most people I started with what seemed like obvious solutions (broadly summarised by ‘eating less’ and ‘moving more’) – but when those things didn’t work for me I threw my heart-rate monitor in the bin and went in search of something that might.

After much trial and error, I cracked it. I’m back to the size I was when I first met Kate, and whilst I wouldn’t call myself an expert, I definitely learnt a thing or two about weight loss on the way – stuff that I’d very much like to pass on.

Which is why last year I teamed up with Author Della Galton, and co-wrote my second book; How To Eat Loads And Stay Slim.

It’s  a mixture of hard science (eg. how hunger really works), quick ‘cheats’ (eg. how to make zero fat chips), psychological techniques (eg. why focusing on your food as you eat is really important), ingenious strategies (eg. how to cut down on sugar without going cold turkey), and easy peasy recipes (eg. my ‘roast potato & egg smashup breakfast’ or Della’s ‘apple ginger clafouti’) – all served up in an easy-to-digest, humourous read from authors who’ve been where you are now.

If you’ve read How To Do Everything and Be Happy, the format will be familiar to you. Several broad chapters, broken into smaller sections, each of which result in an Action Point. However each thought provoking, scientifically-provable, action point also has a STAR RATING. There are fifty four stars available. You get one just for buying the book! Collect enough and you’ll steadily increase your chances of being able to eat loads AND stay slim. Collect enough stars (thirty or more would be a good target to have) and we personally guarantee that a slim figure, coupled with a healthy but satiated appetite, are yours for the taking. No dieting required.

How To Eat Loads And Stay Slim is available right now as an ebook, paperback and audio download. You can read the opening chapter here, or how about we read it for you? Just click the big play button in the video link below to listen to the opening chapters.

As with all goals why not share your experience with ‘the class’ in the comments box.


If you enjoyed listening to us you can download the entire book from audible (.co.uk | .com)  – an amazon company and the internet’s largest supplier of spoken word entertainment.

If you’re new to audible, and in the UK, you can get it for free. Just use this link, follow the instructions and search for  ’How To Eat Loads And Stay Slim’.

 If you’re reading this in an email or can’t see the video link  just click here


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Brain Farts (& the return of Bob)

brainfartLast week – ish – I introduced you to Bob and his wish list which was, I don’t think he’ll mind me telling you, made up of quite a lot of stuff you wouldn’t ‘wish’ on your worst enemy.

Actually that’s not quite true. You probably would wish quite a lot of this stuff on your worst enemy. In fact viewed in this context, Bob’s list makes a lot more sense. I can see my enemy’s now, miserably cleaning their cookers, painting their wardrobes, and spending long hours on the phone to various banking institutions, all whilst I sit in the sun…

Anyway. After giving Bob the benefit of my advice I received the following chirpy response:

Not long after I’d sent you the email I was reading your book again and got to the page about Wish List items leading to Happiness and thought – oh my that’s it.  Lots of things on that list aren’t wish list stuff at all.  But I’d already sent the email.  I think what I presented to you isn’t my Wish List, its my list of Brain Farts.  Another book calls them pop-corn thoughts because they POP into your head.  I prefer Brain Farts.  I am a master list writer and I write all these brain farts down.  This leads to a big list that I don’t know what to do with.  Which is what I sent to you.  Its actioning the items on those lists that’s a problem.  I think what would make me happier (I’m not unhappy) is to become someone that can get those nagging jobs just done to make more space for Live Life Now Lists and Wish List stuff.

Ah Bob. I feel your pain. I’ve been there. Making endless lists of chores which if I can just get some of them completed, will free up so much time, and relieve me of all those niggles I feel through out the day.

So let me spare you some torment and make life considerably easier for you. It ain’t ever gonna happen. You’re never, ever, going to clear your brain fart list. Ever.

Have you ever noticed how it doesn’t matter how big that suitcase is, when it comes to holiday packing it’s never quite big enough?  Or how your wife manages to fill her handbag with all kinds of rubbish regardless of whether it’s the size of a small purse or large enough to comfortably hold a small child and a three volume novel. So it is with brain farts, and chores, and all those annoying things that seem to stand between you and a smile. They fill up whatever space you allow them to have. And therein is your solution. Take back control and give those farts no space whatsoever!

Now I’m not saying ignore them. That won’t work for you. Not unless you’re one of those people who are blessed with the amazing ability to live life totally in the moment, never worrying about what might happen next week, or tomorrow, or in the next five minutes, and instantly forgetting anything that happened longer than a moment ago. But chances are if you were one of those people you wouldn’t be reading this now. No – you need a way to manage those brain farts. I accept that.

Here then, is what I do.

1. When I get a brain fart I text/email myself, or write it on a scrap of paper. Anything, just to capture it and get it out of my head.

2. I have a text file on my computer desktop. You could use a pad or something equally low tech, but you need a dumping ground. As a new brain farts arrives (or you come across the ones you captured at stage one) transfer them here.

3. Once a month review this document, and group the farts together into subject matter – WRITING, FUN, NOW LIST, CHORES, FINANCES, BUSINESS TASKS, COMMITMENTS.. things like that.

4. Transfer all these items to a master to-do list, and then review it – deciding which THREE of all the brain farts under that section (including the ones from previous months) should get your attention, which can be dumped, and which should just stay in pending. Picking just three farts focuses me on what’s actually important. Often I check to see how the three things I’ve chosen relate to my Goals.

5. Having decided which three items (they’re not farts any more) I’m going to work on I then decide what the next action is for each of them (do I need to call someone? Do some research? Read a book? Buy a widget? Talk to my assistant?) and when I’m going to do that (take a look at the Advanced Diary Tips at the end of the book for more on that).

And that’s it. It’s actually a lot less onerous than it might seem, and in doing this I  prevent brain farts from taking over my life. True my oven could still do with a clean. True my wardrobe could also do with a lick of paint. True, at some point I still need to call the bank and have my sanity gradually erased by someone who has no intention of actually helping me, but… not today. Today I’m busy being happy.


Hot news! Today ‘How To Do Everything And Be Happy’ is available, in paperback, from selected US bookstores and from US cover with drop shadowamazon.COM – hurrah! 

To mark this auspicious occasion, my US publishers (Harper 360) have decided to give the US-printed paperback a brand new, all-yellow cover.

Of course the inside of the book remains exactly the same – this isn’t a new edition – so there’s no need to rush out and buy a new copy of the book if you already have one. Although I would certainly understand if that were the case. And can one ever have too many copies? Plus – one imagines – there might be those amongst you who might see a market for importing the US branded copy of the book, and selling it here in the UK as a collectors edition. I’m just saying.


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Taming The Beast

lists

I’ve been having a very interesting email exchange with a reader (let’s call him ‘Bob’) about the lists mentioned in the book, and what should or shouldn’t go on them.  Here’s an extract from Bob’s opening email…

I’ve been re-reading the Wish List bit of the book and wonder whether things like ‘get boiler serviced’ are just plain old To-do lists stuff whereas having a baby is definitely Wish List stuff.  Have I got that right?  Here’s my wish list:

1.      We’re (me and Mrs) going to have a baby
2.      I’ve transferred my pension
3.      Make some money by selling our “holiday” photos
4.      Work out details of student loan
5.      Make an excel “balance sheet” and update it monthly
6.      Develop the habit of regular exercise (6 x 30 mins per week)
7.      Book – never eat alone by Keith ferrazzi
8.      Organize a new tenancy agreement
9.      The paint chip on car has been repaired free of charge
10.     Work out an annual bills saving schedule to make sure we have enough funds
11.     Get the cahoot account closed down
12.     Get the NS&I account closed down
13.     Setup an ISA for £5,000 emergency fund
14.     Get Halifax account closed down
15.     Thought = pay-off student loan or mortgage????
16.     Can we get the telephone (and television) cheaper
17.     Can we get electricity and gas cheaper
18.     Organize myself for tennis team
19.     Get the water pipe noise gone
20.     Get the boiler serviced
21.     Get the toilet repaired
22.     The doors + handles have been replaced
23.     The oven has been cleaned and is almost as good as new
24.     The road outside the house has been fixed by the council
25.     The wardrobe is painted
26.     The shelves are painted
27.     The TV cabinet is painted
28.     The gutters have been cleaned out
29.     The hole through to the bathroom has been filled
30.     The tiles, grout and sealant have the mouldy stuff removed
31.     We’ve purchased a new vacuum cleaner
32.     The mortar around the outside of the house is better (no window drafts)
33.     The damp in the kitchen is a thing of the past
34.     The front-door has been painted
35.     The doors in the bathroom have been painted
36.     We’ve fitted a shelf in the bathroom cupboard
37.     plant the seed of selling the flat
38.     The car has been thoroughly cleaned
39.     The under the stairs cupboard is more user friendly
40.     I would like metal things for my shirts
41.     We want a lamp for the lounge
42.     Cancel my subscription to men’s health magazine
43.     Cancel my subscription to wired magazine
44.     Work out how to get page counts from the printer
45.     Buy new brush heads
46.     Change address for pension
47.     Ask pension people if can have contribution back
48.     Go climbing
49.     Enter lots and lots of competitions
50.     The gambling to pay off the mortgage idea
51.     Clay pigeon shooting
52.     Water heater idea
53.     Glasses
54.     Shirts
55.     Cooking
56.     Clothes
57.     Look into getting a credit card (enjoy the benefits)
58.     Club card (enjoy the benefits)
59.     Nectar card (enjoy the benefits)
60.     Tidy wardrobe shelf
61.     Wardrobe boxes
62.     Tidy under spare bed
63.     Box to keep watches in
64.     Watch collection?….
65.     My own collection of portraits (self portraits) in a book or website
66.     Have my own website

That’s an impressive list of 66 assorted items. And Bob’s right, there are quite a few items on here that seem a tad dull and more like day-to-day to-do list items.

Let’s back up for a moment and consider what should and shouldn’t make your wish list. You’ll remember from the book that your wish-list is is basically a list of items that pop into your head when faced with the question ‘what do you want’. But I can see a number of items on Bob’s list that don’t appear to be an answer to that question. Numbers 16 and 17 for instance. They seem to be answers to a slightly different question (‘how do we reduce our outgoings?’). Number 49 is quite interesting too. Does Bob like doing lots and lots of competitions? Is that what he really wants to do?

But a wish list is more than ‘things that you want’ – if you look on page 130 of the book (the final part of the section entitled ‘Making a Wish List’) you’ll notice that items on your wish list should also be there because getting that thing would make you HAPPY!

I’m wondering just how happy Bob would be if his printer could give him page counts.

Finally, remember the idea of a wish list is to feed into your Goals. You take the top three wishes, turn them into goals, then put away the wish list until a goal slot becomes available. With this in mind, he might never get to learn about page counts.

Now I don’t mean to tease Bob, because I don’t know, maybe page counts really is a big deal for him! I have another reader for whom learning to touch type is one of her three GOALS. One of the three things she wants more than anything else in the world. She’d honestly be that happy if she could type really really fast.

What I think’s happened here is that Bob’s jumped a stage and started to do some of the GOAL related work – that of identifying the Next Action – here on his wish list. For instance, he seems to have a lot of items that are related to reducing outgoings, or increasing income. With this in mind, what I would expect to see an item on his wish list like this:

‘to be able to pay all the bills, every month, and still have enough for fun’

Then, if this item gets chosen as one of his three Goals, it might be reworded as follows…

‘Me & the Mrs manage our money effectively (pay all the bills each month) and have plenty left over for fun. December 31st 2013.’

Having written the goal he might start brainstorming ways to achieve that, at which point you’ll come up with ideas that are currently items 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 42, 43, 46, 47, 49, 50, 58, and 59 of his wish list. (Incidentally, I wouldn’t recommend 57. Having worked for credit card companies for many years I can tell you now, credit cards are evil, and no way to manage your money. Get a debit card. Enjoy those benefits.)

Likewise, he might have an item on your wish list along the lines of…

‘we live in a nice home that works!’

..and when he’s re-written it as a goal, all those house-repair jobs that are currently on his wish list (but shouldn’t be) will miraculously become possible next actions to achieving his goal.

Anyway, here’s hoping this helps Bob, and you too if you’re still struggling with your wish lists or goals. I’d really like to know your thoughts. You can post them in the comments below.

(PS. Bob gave me permission to reproduce part of our email exchange. You can email me without fear of being made into a blog post)

(PPS. That said, I am a busy bloke – free one-to-one coaching isn’t something I can necessarily offer to everyone)


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Kick Start 2013


poster 2013Happy New Year!

So how’s it going so far? Is it all lovely and exciting? Or is it pretty much like last year? Perhaps even a little bit dull? Would you say that, aside from joining hands with friends and family on the stroke of midnight and mumbling the words to a song you only sing once a year, it’s actually quite difficult to know where 2012 came to an end, and 2013 began?

I know how you feel.

Which is why, in a few days time, I will be hosting the first of this years Happiness Clubs, here in Southend-on-Sea.

Happy Club – starts Thursday 24th January 2013

If you’re a long time visitor to this blog you’ll know that this year I’ve run numerous How To Do Everything And Be Happy workshops in various parts of Essex.

I think it’s safe to say that the workshops went down a storm, and I’m delighted to announce that using the invaluable feedback I received, Southend’s Therapy Life Centre and I will be running a series of monthly Happiness workshops – starting Thursday the 24th January – to coincide with the re-launch of the paperback.

What’s covered?

Each month we’ll spend the first hour looking at a different idea from the book How To Do Everything and Be Happy and how to implement it into your life, whether that be Boxing Day, Wish List, Now Lists, Focus, Trophy Boards, or Diaries. Then after a short tea-break (biscuits provided – probably, if I remember) we’re back, looking at your Goals, how far you’ve got with them and how you can take the next step towards achieving them.

Next Thursday we’ll be concentrating on how to eliminate unhappiness, and working out exactly what we want for the coming months. It’ll be fun! I can definitely promise you that. But I have a feeling it’s also going to be the start of something special.

Is it a workshop? Or a course? It’s a “club”.

Technically it’s a series of six stand-alone, related, repeating, workshops (when we get to workshop number six we’ll start afresh the following month). You can come along to just one, a series of six, or every month, it’s totally your choice.

The evening will have more of a club-feel to it making the whole experience less “rushed”, more intensive, and introducing a strong focus on helping you achieve your goals as the months roll by.

It’s a fun way to get motivated and fired up about making changes in your life, whilst being practical, realistic and keeping your feet firmly on the floor.

How much does it cost?

The cost is just £60 for six sessions (if you pay in advance – see below), or £12 per session if you pay on the night.

Where and when?

The club starts on Thursday January 24th 2013
Subsequent clubs are on the last Thursday of each month and last two hours (including a ten minute break around half time).
We start promptly at 8pm (so maybe get there about 7:45? Put that in your diary).

We meet at The Therapy Life Centre, in Southend On Sea, Essex. (the old driving test centre) – there is reasonable parking.
The address is 11 Prittlewell Chase, Southend-on-Sea, SS0 0RX
The nearest station is Prittlewell (just fifteen minutes walk away) which is on the Liverpool Street – Southend Victoria line.

Sign Up and Pay!

The cost is just £60 for six sessions (if you pay in advance), or £12 per session if you pay on the night.

There are three ways to pay in advance

  1. In person at the Therapy Life Centre. Click here for opening hours. 
  2. Over the phone with a credit or debit card. Call 01702 433959. Click here for opening hours. 
  3. Pay here via credit / debit card and/or paypal!

Refunds & General Terms

  • Workshop credits can be carried forward – you do not have to attend six concurrent workshops
  • If you wish to transfer your credits to another person please let us know first
  • Payments via the internet will appear as “soundhaven” on your statement
  • Refunds will not be issued at a workshop and must be requested in the manner the original payment was made (ie. in person, over the phone, or via this website)
  • We reserve the right to charge a £2 admin fee to cover the cost of processing refunds
  • In the event that you cannot make six workshops we reserve the right to retain £12 per workshop you’ve attended, and refund the balance
  • We require five working days notice (via the contact form on this website) process a paypal refund

Any questions?

Drop me a line via the contact page if you have any questions. Operators are standing by.


Visit the Therapy Life Centre’s website
More about the Therapy Life Centre


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FAQ: Potential Wish List Problem #2 – The ‘Universe’ and its wicked sense of humour

welcome-marhabaIt’s a funny thing about the focus mechanism in your head, as well as bringing to your attention all those things you’ve deemed important, you may find you start to notice all the things that are, on the face of it, the complete opposite.

Say for instance, that your three wishes basically amount to the same thing: “spend more time with the family.” You’ve created yourself a nice screensaver featuring pictures of you and the kids, and the walls of your office are now plastered with family photos. No sooner have you done this than your boss walks in and offers you a raise. And a promotion. And a new car. And an expense account. And a bigger office. InDubai. For six months.

Now clearly this job in Dubai runs counter to your wish. It is, none the less, a very exciting opportunity. You might even do a little detective work to see whether or not you can take your family with you – only to discover that you can’t. Should you take the job?

This scenario may seem unlikely but it’s happened to me enough times to realise that there’s a mechanism at work here. It’s almost as if the Universe, God, or a deity of your preference, picks up your Wish List and says, “So this is what you really want, is it? So you wouldn’t be the slightest bit interested in…” and ka-zaam! The total opposite of what you want is laid out before you, for the taking.

In moments like this I treat it for what it is.

A choice.

This is an opportunity to examine your heart. To think carefully about whether or not the items on your Wish List are things that you really want, or things that you should want. In short, it’s time to be honest with yourself.

Whether you take the job inDubai(or whatever your equivalent would be) is, of course, entirely up to you. And in my experience, decisions like this usually require a great deal of soul searching, usually when there’s very little time to do anything of the sort. Worse still, even once you’ve made the choice there’s nothing to stop the Universe (God, etc) coming back and asking you again, and again, and again, each time raising the stakes. That just seems to be how it works. So it’s important to keep in mind the original question:

What is it that you actually want?


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FAQ: Potential Wish List Problems #1 – It’s all me, me, me, me, me!

Me Me Me!

It’s no fun growing up with brothers and sisters. Life is a constant battle for supremacy. And whilst being the eldest, or the tallest, or the strongest, should give you the competitive edge amongst your siblings, there’s always a parent hovering in the background who’s just one squabble away from wading in and levelling the playing field with a clip round the ear and comments such as:

“Wait your turn,” or

“Be nice to your sister,” or

“How many times have I told you to share?!”

You can appeal, of course – I often did – but this was usually met with:

“Peter – not everything’s about you,” or

“If you can’t play nicely then I’ll take it away,” or

“I want, I want, I want – that’s all I ever hear!”

It seems that no sooner have we been encouraged to ‘think for ourselves’ and ‘decide what we want in life’ than someone, maybe the same someone, tells us that we’re being self centred or selfish. ‘Putting others first,’ so they say, is the true path to enlightenment.

Now I’m not going to tell you that our parents were wrong – not entirely – but a few of us (and I include myself in this) had this concept of putting others first beaten into us so effectively that we’ve all but lost the ability to consider our own needs, and to do so can often fill us with feelings of guilt. That’s not good.

What our parents should have told us was this:

 Taking into consideration our own wants,
to the exclusion of everyone else,
is wrong.

The middle line of that sentence is crucial! Without it, you’re effectively telling yourself that everyone else is more important than you – and whilst there will be those of you who actually believe that, it’s simply not true.

Here’s another thing your parents should have told you:

Taking into consideration everyone else,
to the exclusion of yourself,
is utterly, utterly wrong.

No good can come of thinking of others to the exclusion of yourself. You will end up searching the internet, reading blog posts on how to become happier.

However, these can be incredibly hard concepts to grasp. From the workshops I’ve found that Mum’s especially are often hard-wired to put their own needs or wants on the backburner, or to dismiss them completely. So even if you finally manage to get your logical brain to say, “Oh yes, I see now – I need to strike a balance” – your inner child will continue to follow the put-everyone-else-first rule in the hope that one day that it’ll magically start working for you.

It won’t.

And sadly, undoing this level of brainwashing takes more than a couple of pages on a blog like this.

All that said, there are a few things you could try:

Firstly, there’s therapy. And I’m not kidding. It really is the only way to free yourself from this noble, but none the less destructive, behaviour. A word of warning; therapy is like embarking on a long personal journey through your own psyche for which you really need a qualified and experienced guide. Finding a therapist that works for you can be a challenge. This isn’t a reason not to try therapy, just try, if you can, to see a therapist who someone you trust can recommend.

Secondly, you could leave yourself notes around your house or office to remind you of the two facts above. Will it work? Maybe. It’s a low tech solution that won’t remedy the underlying problem, but sometimes a sticking plaster is all that’s necessary to enable us to continue on in life.

Lastly, you could strike a compromise with yourself. Accept the fact that there are other people in your life and incorporate them into your Wish List. Grab a piece of paper and instead of starting your wishes with the words “I want”, try starting a few with “we want” and see where that gets you.

For instance:

“We want to travel the world.”

“My mother and I live in a wonderful house, near the sea.”

“I am learning to play the guitar, with the support of …”

Good luck.