A lesson about countless small efforts

rice-terraces-tegallalang-bali-indonesia-7966798Decades ago, as a young adult, I travelled overseas for 6 months. Traversing the island of Java, I was knocked out by the expanse of rice terraces covering mountain after mountain, top to bottom. On and on it went, this amazing feat of engineering which was also breath-takingly beautiful.  At first I couldn’t imagine how such a marvel could have been designed and constructed. At that time Indonesia was not a wealthy country. There weren’t huge tractors and other machines to carry out this work.

As these thoughts sped through my mind it dawned on me how many hands – millions of them, making millions of movements, created these wonders which feed millions and, at the same time, formed a beautiful landscape. Humans working with nature, each making small efforts over hundreds of years, fashioned these vast terraced terrains. Countless human efforts maintained the terraces and rice harvests.

What couldn’t one person do or achieve in a lifetime taking small steps persistently, consistently? What could I achieve in my life, my work, my relationships, my art making small efforts day by day? This is how to learn a language, build a house, garden, skyscrapers, massive ships, just about anything. I’m grateful I learned this lesson early in my life because it has helped me stay focussed on tasks and projects, on making every day count. It has jerked me out of procrastination, slackness, loss of resolve. The beauty of the images remain with me to this day and on revisiting Indonesia I am still in awe of the rice terraces that are produced by millions of hands making countless small efforts.

All over the world people are making countless small efforts to create a beautiful and bountiful realm. Be inspired, do it too.

Going through hell

hell art

If you’re going through hell, don’t turn back, keep going and going

We make a big mistake if we turn back when we are part way through hell. Because turning back means the ‘horrible’ circumstances are wasted, are for nothing.

Keep on going until you get to the other side of the tortuous situation. Keep moving through it.

Nothing stays the same so hell will pass like everything else passes. Take some comfort in that. Know that you can and will bear through it, no matter how bad it feels or seems. Get help if you can.

When you get through you’ll look back and realise you can survive anything. You’ll know you have courage, persistence and the tenacity to see things through no matter how difficult. It is empowering and strengthening to know that you are capable of keeping going when the going gets rough.

By the law of averages it’s unlikely you’ll go through hell again anytime soon.

Better things are ahead. Trust in that, even if it seems impossible to imagine. In nature rainbows follow thunderstorms, then the air becomes fresh and clear, plants sparkle, birds sing.

Make your way through your hell till you reach the other side where things are going to be better. Don’t stop till you find your rainbows.

Self esteem & confidence

Self esteem and confidence information sheet

Self EsteemWhat is self esteem?

It’s the value you place on yourself. Deep down do you believe you are worthy of love, success, happiness, that you’re good, capable? People value themselves to different degrees. Some people don’t think they are worthy of anything much. Some value themselves realistically. There is high and low self esteem.

Self esteem is a frank and sober acknowledgement of what we deserve and what we believe we are capable of achieving based on genuine strengths we possess. It is not arrogance or narcissism where there is an over inflation of oneself without any basis in reality. A hallmark of self esteem is a person’s integrity and effectiveness in all they do.

What is confidence?
It’s the sense that you are capable and competent to meet life’s challenges and have abilities to create an effective and rewarding life. It means you are brave enough to have a go at doing things even if you’re not sure of the results. You are willing to show yourself to the world, to make mistakes and learn from them, to make failure another lesson rather than a defeat. A hallmark of confidence is a person’s courage, self reliance, reliability.

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How do you enhance self esteem and confidence?

Reject self criticism. Treat yourself with respect, care and consideration. And be prepared to treat other people likewise. Tell yourself you deserve to have love, safety, success, happiness in your life, knowing that everyone else deserves these too. When you hear yourself or someone else putting you down, argue with what you hear. Critique isn’t the same as a put down or criticism. Critique can be useful to help us mature, drop ineffectual behaviour and develop skillful ways of interacting with others or improving things we do. It can feel like criticism or put downs, but it pays to listen to make sure you’re not missing an opportunity to learn something useful. We are all learning till the day we die if we keep an open mind, benefitting from evaluations of our behaviour and attitudes. Maintain openness to new knowledge and skills, but close the door to abuse from yourself or others. Find two positive statements for every negative one you hear, especially from yourself.

Accept yourself. You, like everyone else on the planet, have strengths and weaknesses. Recognise these and create conditions to use your strengths as much as possible. Value and praise your own strengths. Know your weaknesses, do what you can to improve your knowledge, attitudes, abilities, skills, but accept where you will never improve. It’s ok, you’re still good enough. Remember to apply these ideas to accept others as they are too. No one is perfect. We are in the school of life till we die.

Acknowledge your successes. List your achievements every year or so, more often if you like. Over a lifetime we can forget all the wonderful things we’ve done, the people we’ve loved and cared for, the experiences we’ve had. Do a stocktake of your life at least once a year, starting from when you can remember. Think about the effort, time, passion, energy you put into your achievements. Value them, honour them, celebrate them. Success builds on success so remind yourself of your successes. You’ll feel good about them, yourself and your confidence in yourself will grow. Your successes and every time you got up from defeat or failure are instances of personal courage, self reliance, resilience, reliability.

View failures, defeats, losses and rejection as learning experiences, albeit painful ones. Recognise what you took from these experiences to do well afterwards, to become stronger, wiser and more empowered. Stop putting yourself down for all the things that went wrong in your life. Instead use the lessons to make changes that will improve your life and circumstances. Everyone has failures, losses, rejections. There is a saying that the courageous person is the one who falls down 7 times but gets up for the 8th time.

Keep your promises, be on time, be reliable. This is about self respect, respecting others and gaining the respect of others. Promises impact on other people who are counting on you to do what you said you would. How might they react when you prove yourself to be unreliable? How many broken promises will anyone be prepared to tolerate? In contrast, how are people likely to react over time when you become known for keeping your word? Keeping promises shows you are trustworthy and dependable. Breaking promises shows the opposite. Whether you are considered trustworthy or untrustworthy you will be treated accordingly. How do you want to be treated? Notice the difference and how this impacts on self esteem. Choose to behave in ways that allow you to know you are trustworthy and that other people also know you are.

Being on time is similar to promising something. It impacts on other people. When you’re late and this is habitual, your family, friends or business associates will become frustrated with you, feel disrespected or not cared about and eventually they won’t believe you will ever be on time. They may choose to be late next time to teach you a lesson. They may say “oh s/he’s never on time, make your own way there, don’t rely on them or you may miss the show”. Whenever you show disrespect towards other people it affects how you become. People who disrespect others will find they incur disrespect themselves, from themselves and others. The more careless you become with other people, the more careless you will be perceived by others. This does not enhance your effectiveness, confidence or self esteem. Are you willing to settle for arrogance and self interest rather than a sense of genuine self worth validated by those around you?

Reliability shows you are capable, considerate, trustworthy, respectful, effective. Show up, do the work, participate. Everyone has a part to play in any project, enterprise, family or relationship. Do your bit. You will respect yourself for that and so will everyone else. You will know you are capable and effective in the world. This enhances your sense of self worth.

Display integrity. This is about having standards, values and living by a code of behaviour that honours who you are. Have rules for what you do, how you treat others, how hard you work, what you won’t do. Without such rules your personality development will remain immature. No one can like themselves when they act dishonourably, fail their own moral standards and show they have no abiding values. Wise adults live by a code of ethics, standards of behaviour. They have integrity. Standards and values facilitate decision making and problem solving especially when ethical dilemmas emerge. When you stick to sound principles of behaviour you learn to trust yourself to do the right thing. This is empowering and enhances self esteem and confidence. You can count on your own good judgement.

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Spend time with people who care about you and any other positive people. Love, acceptance and good feelings rub off from one person to another. Same goes with negative feelings, dislike, rejection, indifference. Which would you prefer? Limit time spent with people whom you have an obligation to be with but who mistreat you. Increase time spent with people who care. You will feel good about yourself, your life, those who care and the world. This improves self esteem and confidence.

© Eli Sky all rights reserved
Self esteem and confidence information sheet

Feeling lonely?

Feeling LonelyLoneliness

1. Did you know that loneliness is a feeling, not a fact?
When you are feeling lonely, something has triggered feelings and beliefs that you’re disconnected from everyone and that no one cares about you. However, rarely is this a fact, because no one gets completely isolated and left on their own unless they choose to be. The brain is designed to pay attention to pain and danger, therefore loneliness gets our attention.

But then the brain tries to make sense of the feeling. Why am I feeling this way? Is it because nobody loves me? Because I am a loser? Because they are all mean? Theories about why you are feeling lonely can become confused with facts. Then it becomes a bigger problem so just realize that you are having this feeling and accept it without over reacting.

2. Reach out because loneliness is painful and can confuse you into thinking that you are a loser, an outcast. You might react by withdrawing into yourself, your thoughts, and your lonely feelings and this is not helpful. At its best, anticipation of loneliness might motivate us to reach out and cultivate friendships, which is the healthiest thing to do if you are sad and alone. When you are a child, and your sadness causes you to cry, you may evoke a comforting response from others. If you’re an adult, not so much.

3. Notice your self deflating thoughts.  We often create self centered stories to explain our feelings when we are young, it is not unusual for children to assume that there is something wrong with them if they are not happy. If they are lonely and sad, children may assume other people don’t like them when this is rarely the case.

Victims of bullying may well have fans and friends, but they often aren’t aware of it because the shame and loneliness get more attention. Habitual assumptions about social status continue into adulthood and if you are looking for evidence that the world sucks, you can always find it.

4. Make a plan to fight the mental and emotional habits of loneliness. If you realize you are dealing with an emotional habit, you can make a plan to deal with loneliness. Since healthy interaction with friends is good, make some effort to reach out to others, to initiate conversation and face time even when your loneliness and depression are telling you not to. Yes, it is work, but it is worthwhile, just like exercising is worthwhile even when you are feeling tired or lazy.

5. Focus on the needs and feelings of others, the less attention on your lonely thoughts and feelings. I can walk down the street thinking about myself, my loneliness and the hopelessness of it all, staring at the sidewalk and sighing to myself. Or I can walk down the street grateful for the diversity of people I get to share the sidewalk with, silently wishing them good health and good fortune, and smiling at each person I meet. The latter is more fun, even though I sometimes have to remind myself to do it on purpose.

6. Find others like you. Now days there are more tools than ever before to find out where the knitters, hikers or kite boarders are congregating so that you can get together with those who share your interests. This makes it much easier to identify groups with which you will have something in common, a natural basis for beginning a friendship.

7. Always show up when meeting up with others. You don’t have to run for president of the knitters society at your first meeting. But you do have to show up. I have been telling others to practice yoga for 20 years and promising I would do it myself for just as long, but except for the occasional coincidental yoga offering at a retreat, I didn’t take the trouble of finding a class I could attend regularly until a month ago. Now I am enjoying it and it wasn’t that hard. I have put a reminder in my phone to resign from the procrastinator’s society.

8. Be curious, but don’t expect perfection or applause. Each time you show up is an experiment, a micro adventure in social bonding. If you are curious about and interested in others, they will be attracted to you because you are giving them attention. So you will get attention in return. Curiosity about others also takes your focus away from those painful feelings that tend to make you hide and sulk.

9. Kindess goes a long way. “There’s nobody here but us chickens.” This is one of my favorite lines from The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment by Thaddeus Golas. Underneath the impressive facades of the high fliers are the same set of emotions we all are born with. Celebrities suffer from stage fright and depression too.

You have the power to offer loving kindness and generosity of spirit to all you come into contact with. It isn’t instinctual to be kind to strangers or people who scare you. But it is a choice. It is a choice that Jesus and Ghandi used intentionally. And in the long run it is a winning choice. The alternative, being mean or stingy with those you don’t know well, can get you a reputation as a Scrooge.

10. Be persistent even if a particular group does seem to be a dead end for you, try another. AA and AlAnon recommend that everyone try six different groups to find one that suits you best. If you are persistent, challenging the assumptions and feelings that tell you to give up and resign yourself to a life of loneliness, and showing up and being curious and kind to others and more and more groups, the odds are in your favor.

And once you have a friend or two, nourish those friendships with time and attention. Don’t be too cautious about whether you are giving more than you are getting at first. If you make more friends and some of them are takers, you can choose to spend more time with the friends who reward your friendship.

Loneliness:

Understand that you just can’t stop feeling lonely, if you think you are lonely. Try to fill the thoughts of loneliness with moments of togetherness. If possible, think back to pleasant times when you were not lonely. If you don’t have any happy memories, try to imagine a realistic situation in which you would not be lonely. Then establish what it would take to create this situation in your present life.

Be content with yourself. Love yourself for the person you are, no matter if you are lonely. The world has room for a diversity of personalities.

Put some fun into your life by going to games at school, walking through a park, checking out a museum, and so on. However, try reaching out by doing fun things with another person or group rather than doing them alone. What interests or hobbies do you have that could be done with others? Check out the local clubs to see if one would interest you.

Stop being so lost in thoughts, instead look around and see what’s happening. Notice people and the environment, live in the moment, and stop worrying about being lonely.

Make some friends, one at a time. You can start by saying hi to a person in school or wherever else you find people, and the next day you make a conversation. Do this with several people over a period of time. Learn and use their name after meeting someone.

Think more about others and not so much about yourself. This is often tough to do, but extending your interest to other people will help channel your thoughts away from your loneliness.

Volunteer. Look for areas where you could help an individual or a group after school or during other free time. By helping others, you will keep busy and get your mind off yourself. Plus, by being with others, you are able to establish friendships.

Article by Eli Sky
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