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Flexible rules“Those who prefer their principles over their happiness, they refuse to be happy outside the conditions they seem to have attached to their happiness.” Albert Camus


We may not be aware of it, but all of us are walking around with a whole bunch of rules. We acquire them over time for a number of reasons and some of us have way more of them than others.


These rules are related to our beliefs and values, and are the conditions we believe need to be met in order for us to approve of something, to feel happy and content, and other things.


The thing is, a whole lot of them are really not necessary and can be quite constricting and restrictive, impeding the ease with which we allow ourselves to feel good, interact with the world and welcome new experiences and information. They can really be a weight we are dragging around for no good reason.


Rules can also hold us up from getting things done. If our rules aren’t working in our favour, they can detrimentally affect our productivity. That’s a big one on my radar right now, as readers have told me overwhelmingly that they feel overworked and wish they had more time.


So why do we tend to hang onto these rules and gather them in the first place? Well, it’s about feeling safe. They can give us a greater sense of belonging, of being approved of by a group, for one thing. If you dress a certain way, speak a certain way, like a certain kind of TV show, food or car, you can belong to the gang. We make decisions based on experience that we feel more comfortable if certain conditions are in place. We adopt a bunch of rules that were randomly or not so randomly put out there for us to adopt so that we can feel we are ok.

Ginger flowerPeople worry and stress about stuff at times.  There are times when worry and stress can overwhelm us, boy don’t I know it.  Sometimes life can seem like a never ending series of obstacles, fires to put out, affronts, outrages, injustices, drudgery and general crap.  Throw in some depressing stuff from facebook and TV – politics, natural disasters, more injustice, and you can find yourself knee deep in shit. 

Enough to make you want to do whatever it is you do when it all gets too much.  That’s another topic to talk about – what coping strategies we can find which do no harm.  Lots, of course.

The thing is, sometimes we might be taking on the worry and sense of responsibility for a whole lot of stuff that is not ours to worry about.  It’s easily done, especially for the more conscientious among us, and those of us who are conditioned to feel guilt.

But how are you going to save the world as well as keeping up with the kids’ school notices and worrying about whether anyone might dislike or disagree with you?

You can’t, of course, and you need to let some of that shit go.  Just let it go.

But first, you need to be able to tell the difference.  What should you take responsibility for, and what can you feel totally free to release from your long list of concerns?

Coping mechanismsThis one’s about coping mechanisms.  Years ago I saw a shrink because I was really bothered by my tendency to escape into ridiculous fantasies of time travel or winning lotto.  I noticed the more I was struggling with the realities of life, the more I would lie in bed or sit for hours disappearing into my hobby of devising various alternative scenarios.  I was distressed because I thought I might be a bit nuts.  Turns out it wasn’t life threatening, just a coping mechanism.  A fairly harmless one at that.  Still, it served as a gauge to show me how well I was coping with things at any given time.

Whilst this coping mechanism did no great harm other than suck time, I was aware that there were way more constructive things I could be doing.  I noticed that if I could engage myself in something that seemed meaningful or valuable to me, this old coping mechanism would fade off and I’d forget about it.  The main thing that seemed to make it re-appear was when I had difficulty accepting something, like the current reality.

Angry CleaningI have no idea what Google or facebook have to say about this because I have deliberately not looked, wanting to see what happens when I start typing.  I believe, and I may not be the first to discover it, that Angry Cleaning is a thing.  I think I just saw somebody doing it and I think I angrily cleaned stuff myself yesterday or the day before.  Ok, I just Googled it, and it’s a thing.

To clarify, I’m not talking about angry cleaning when you’re angry about the cleaning, or the mess you’re cleaning.  It’s using cleaning as a way of occupying yourself when you’re angry in general.

The first thing to know about angry cleaning, is just go ahead and let it happen.  Stuff will get cleaned, and that’s always good.

Another fascinating fact about it is that true Angry Cleaning is done efficiently and calmly, and that’s always a good thing too.

When we’re distressed, frustated, hurt, overwhelmed, unable to comprehend injustice, and similar very unpleasant emotions, we’ll desperately look for some way to comfort or distract ourselves. 

JudgementI've been thinking a lot about the idea of judgement lately. You may have noticed me mention before, the Jungian concept of projection – how when we judge others, we are really judging a part of ourselves. So it's time for me to embark on a bit of a rant, which is in danger of course, of being judgemental.

Our judgement can manifest in different ways – some of us are more inclined to direct our judgemental feelings at ourselves, and others are more inclined to externalise those feelings by finding fault with others. Comparing ourselves to others is one of the ways we judge ourselves unkindly (or indeed narcissistically). Either way, different sides of the same coin. Basically, judgement sucks, is bullshit, and I strongly recommend doing without it, learning to let it go.

Whether you complain a lot about others or you harshly compare yourself with others and assume many other people are so much better, more worthy and more deserving than you, (or vice versa), you're playing the same victim game in a different way, and it still means you need to make peace with yourself and let go of this judgement bullshit. Have I said bullshit enough times already? It's bullshit. Judgement is bullshit. (A judgemental statement, of course, lol).

Basically, any time we're engaging in judgemental thoughts, criticising, condemning, chastising, patronising, invalidating etc, we're not in a healthy mindset. The antidote to being judgemental is seeking to understand, it's curiosity and open mindedness, it's love. When we are able to be curious and open minded about something and just observe our feelings and reactions to it, and question them, without judgement of either ourselves or others, we open the way to greater understanding and possibility, to more potential for solutions, resolutions and alternatives.

The reason it feels uncomfortable to judge others, and we tend to want to cover up that uncomfortable feeling by expressing our judgement more strongly, is because we are externalising something we are uncomfortable about in ourselves. If we have the guts to examine what we are uncomfortable about within ourselves, with open minded curiosity, it no longer seems important to us to dominate, condemn, hurt or control other people, or necessary to be their victim.

Bullshit RemovalDo you sometimes (or often) feel frustrated by the level of bullshit you are exposed to, subjected to, that you experience and notice in your life? Me too. Geez, it's out there, they're out there, there's plenty of it about. It's in food, it's on TV, it's on facebook, it's in little snippets of communication going on all day, every day, and most significantly, it's in our own heads. It's all through politics and economics, social structures, education.... it's out there.

I'm increasingly aware of the amount of bullshit I'm surrounded by and subjecting myself to every day, and yet I'm in a very emotionally healthy and peaceful place right now. The thing is I'm noticing it more, (bullshit, that is), but I'm not taking it seriously, internalising it, projecting it and all that kind of nonsense (well, not much, or much less than I once did, lol).

The more complicated things seem, the more useful it is to understand how simple things are. Bear with me here, I like to chunk up pretty high, pretty often, and it does come off as vague. Strangely, I also have a wonderful ability to attend to details, sometimes; it's all ok. Anyway, when I say things are simple, I really mean it. Life is simple, it's simple to sort out what's going on in our lives and reach decisions about what is the most loving and constructive thing to be doing right now.

The way we can better see the simplicity of things is by being in touch with our values and knowing what really matters to us and why. Bullshit removal begins by developing a habit of reality checking. We can learn to regularly check in with ourselves by asking the question "what is the purpose of this?"

"What is the purpose of this?" "What is my intention?" "What is the outcome I am seeking?"

These are enormously powerful questions. They're so useful and practical. They allow us to check in, check for bullshit, and remove it, set it aside, step over or around it, wade through it with gumboots on if necessary, and stay on track for living in alignment with what we truly value.

Purpose and intention are the antidote to bullshit! When we are connected with our purpose and we have a clear intention, one which is aligned with our purpose and with our highest values, bullshit will stand out like a standy-outy thing. It can even look pretty funny, and we can find it highly amusing instead of distressing.

There are many ways we can recognize bullshit, and it's important that we're brave enough to see it in ourselves as well as outside ourselves. We can get a feeling about it, we can determine it from the facts, we can notice how things sound to us and we can notice the visual impression we get from things.

The thing is, well crafted bullshit will have a story attached to it. The story may suck you in or confuse you if it includes snippets of reality. Don't fall for that, it's a very old and crummy trick. Separate out the parts and examine them individually if necessary.

iStock 000010031467XSmall

There are various kinds of clutter for us to deal with in our lives, and as you may have noticed by now, I’m all for minimising it, dealing with it, sorting it out, getting it under control and letting it go.

I’m talking about physical clutter, the stuff that accumulates in our home, our workplace, our car, our bag.  These days there’s also digital clutter, which for many of us is largely about emails, digital filing and backing up.  And of course there’s mental clutter – the chatter, the leftover emotional pain, anger and resentment that we really don’t need any more.

Clutter keeps us stuck.  Whatever kind of clutter it is, it’s in the way and it’s holding us back.

iStock 000023144189XSmallBrace yourself for this one because I’m going to give it to you straight!  It’ll be OK, trust me, I’m a Life Coach.  You can handle it, I have faith in you.

Let’s start off pretending we’re not talking about you and me here, let’s say we’re talking about other people.  Well, these other people, a lot of them, a lot of the time, have trouble taking responsibility for their own experience of life.

How unfortunate for them, you say.  Poor things, how do they manage? 

Well what they do, see, is they tell a lot of stories, to themselves and to anyone who’ll listen.  Maybe you’ve heard a lot of these stories, from some people more than others, and you know what I’m talking about.  You know the ones where you’re trying to lend a sympathetic ear, or maybe you’re trying to offer helpful suggestions, but the poor sod seems hell bent on convincing you that their problems can’t be solved, and also about how unfair it all is and how they’ve been mistreated, hard done by, ripped off and taken for granted.

Well, you say, a lot of people do have genuine hardships and grievances, and you’d be quite right.  But if you pay attention, you’ll notice that some people are more interested in describing every intricate detail of the unfairness which has been thrust upon them through no fault of their own than they are in doing anything about it.  It’s almost like they’re enjoying it!

iStock 000008379558XSmallWe all feel a little flat from time to time or notice an unwelcome emotional response to whatever.  The most important thing to know about emotions is that they are not totally out of our control.  Perhaps, like me, you're inclined to sometimes forget the bloody obvious when you feel yuk.  Here are a dozen practical and simple things we can all do to lift our mood.

1. Change your physiology.  If you were an actor and I asked you to make yourself feel sad for the part you're playing, you'd need to change your physiology.  You might slump and slouch, breath shallowly, look down, do stuff with your face, not move much and so on.  Try it and see how you feel.  Now, try smiling, (can be as fake as you like), standing or sitting very straight, moving playfully, breathing deeply from your tummy, putting your arms out with your palms up, and see if you can still feel sad that way.  What if you dance or laugh?  What if you stick your finger up your nose?  Remember, something as simple as sitting straight, brathing deeply and smiling can make a huge difference to your emotional state.

2. Acknowledge yourself.  Ask yourself right now, what can you thank yourself for from the last 24 hours or the last 24 years?  There will be something - maybe you made yourself a great cup of tea this morning, maybe you're happy with what you found to watch on TV last night, maybe it was cool how you gave directions to someone while you were shopping, maybe you know you've done some great  things for your kids, maybe you like the shoes your'e wearing, maybe you coped really well with some criticism or rudeness.  It's gets easier with practice.  Think it, say it to yourself, feel it, picture it.  Smile and say to yourself "good job emtying the rubbish bin, well done".  This is about learning to notice the positive about ourselves.

Woman looking sadI’ve been wanting to start writing on this topic for a while, but a bit scared to.  I think this is because of an awareness that I need to be careful to make it clear that I’m not any kind of expert and have no medical qualifications, and that anyone reading about depression might be depressed themselves. 
 
So, my intention is not to be giving any kind of advice here, other than to seek professional help if you need it.
 
Also, I’m not in a position to answer emails about anyone’s personal situation – I’m busy enough trying to keep a handle on my own stuff.
 
That said, here goes.

It seems these days that every second person you meet is suffering depression or has experienced bouts of it at some stage.  So what is it? 

Without looking up definitions and researching it, my personal experience of it is as follows:

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Heather
Melbourne, Australia

"Yvette is a great coach who inspires you to overcome the obstacles that she finds in working with you.  She is highly motivated and has worked hard to increase her knowledge in many areas that in turn help her clients.  Yvette draws on her own real life experience adn studies to help those of us who have to juggle many responsibilities and mangage the conflicts in thinking that come from that.  I am looking forward to working with Yvette again in the near future"

Liz Jarvis, CSI Business Solutions, 
NSW, Australia

"Through my coaching experience with Yvette I was able to shift my awareness onto my value system as opposed to staring at my circumstances each day and feeling pulled in a hole.  It's powerful because I want meaning, I want to live up to my values and what's right and good for me!  So, I truly learned the value of letting go and receiving the abundance of knowledge for every situation that gives life, love and meaning to who I am and what I can do, with this fearless self awareness."

Keri, 
New York, USA

"Yvette.  Many thanks for a wonderful experience... Our sessions were productive, really interesting adn I so looked forward to them each week with anticipation of what I can learn about myself and my behaviours.  Every session seemed to flow right on topic of what was present in my relaity at the time and your effortless guiding of my strategies never ceased to amaze me.  I highly recommend you as a life coach and thank you again for the experience."

M Shears, 
Melbourne, Australia

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Wollongong, Australia