From Believing It To Achieving It

This is day 3 of Celestine’s Positive Affirmation Challenge ( and today’s affirmation is a variant on one I’ve always had some difficulty with.


Can I really achieve anything I want if I set my heart on it?   How about my childhood dream of being an astronaut?   The reality is-no!   Britain does not have a manned space programme, I’m over 40 years of age and I don’t have the many skills or qualifications that those fortunate enough and brave enough to have made the journey into space possess.


It’s also something upon which I’ve read some criticism.   Just telling yourself you are rich, you are thin, you are successful does not make it so, however much you decide to believe it in your heart.   This, as Celestine points out, is not the purpose of affirmations.   Just saying words isn’t enough, I would have the same results as if I were to recite nursery rhymes to myself (although I have been known to recite the Rudyard Kipling poem “If” to myself when facing a difficult situation, to help me focus- ).   You also have to do the work-set your goal, believe in your own mind that you can achieve it and then do something about it.   Make a plan and actually implement it, facing the difficulties and carrying on even when all you want to do is give up.


Where this affirmation helps however is reminding me to tell myself the truth.   I am someone who values integrity and that should include what I tell myself.   The example I gave yesterday of my desire to learn a language, quite simply I have told myself that I can’t.   Is that true?   No.   I have not been prepared to spend the time and effort needed to learn, to keep going in the face of difficulty and to keep practicing.   I won’t, rather than I can’t.


When I say “I am going to be an astronaut” I know I am lying to myself.   But when I say “I am able to learn French by studying a little every day, even when I find it hard I will remind myself that I have done and learnt many difficult things in the past”, that is both true and positive.


Setting your heart on something means also setting your brain, your hands and your efforts onto the work involved.   It means honesty with yourself.   This is perhaps why I find this affirmation so difficult, I know in my own mind what is possible and also how much work and effort it will take to bring that possibility to fruition.   But I also know how much it would mean to me and the worth of that goal to me, and only I can decide if that is worth the work involved.


I read the following insightful piece by Dr Suzanne Gelb, which was published today on the Tiny Buddha website, she makes the point about honesty with ourselves far better than I ever could.

Celestine’s Personal Excellence site has a lot of useful material on setting and achieving goals, and getting past our limiting beliefs about our abilities, worth having a read.


Unconditional Love

In the C.S. Lewis book, “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, Lucy uses a magic spell to look like her older sister, Susan, Lucy’s idea of the epitome of beauty.   But when shown the vision of her life under the spell, Lucy has ceased to exist for her family.   The sage lion Aslan explains to her that in trying to be someone other than herself, she ceases to exist.


To be someone other than yourself has a long history, whether through art or through more modern desires to change appearance or thoughts.   Greater consciousness of who “we” are and why we are here is a laudable goal, attempting to totally change the “who” and “why” for external reasons takes us right back to the consequences of Lucy’s spell, as well as being unlikely to lead to a healthy outcome.


Spending time in galleries, looking at the paintings of the royal and wealthy going back over the centuries, they clearly did not show up for the sittings in “this old thing”.   There was probably also some degree of artistic licence to improve the appearance of the sitters-Tudor and Elizabethan Britain was a time of widespread disease, poor quality food and water, and even poorer medicine.   The sitters more manifest imperfections could be smoothed over.   It is said that Henry VIII rejected his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, when he finally met her in person, having been given a somewhat unrealistic impression of her beauty from a portrait sent to him.


Why?   Because the portrait was the sitter’s statement to the world.   I am wealthy enough to have these clothes and possessions, and to be well-nourished.   I am powerful enough to have these chains of office and this jewelry.   I am blessed and I meet the conventions of appearance for my era.   Is this actually any different from now?   Except we can capture an image at the click of a button and circulate it around the world in a moment.   But still, feeling we have to change to measure up doesn’t seem to have gone away.


Day 2 of Celestine’s Affirmations Challenge is “I love myself unconditionally”.   I find it heartbreaking to see and read of those who cannot accept themselves as they are because an external voice or movement or belief tells them they cannot, should not, must not.   Yet how many succumb to these thoughts?


A slower start to the day makes me lazy and unproductive.   A school career spent struggling with French grammar means that I am absolutely never going to be able to learn another language.   Yet as soon as I tell myself this, it’s immediately a self-fulfilling prophecy.   I am lazy and unproductive-so pass me the biscuits and kittens on Youtube, here I come.   I will never learn a foreign language, so as soon as an irregular verb rears its head, put the Rosetta Stone book down and retreat.


But what about those with bigger yet unfounded beliefs about their worth, their skills, their looks?   Their own fears and loathing magnified through comparison, retreating from opportunity, fulfillment and the rich tapestry of life.   Heartbreaking.


My own response to day 2 is relatively straightforward.  I can choose my pace for my own day, I am not scared to persevere in learning anything I choose.   Like any human being, my value and dignity are innate, not something to be given from outside, depending on my view of how I’ve spent my time or whether I can negotiate a discount in Russian.


But isn’t it also important to offer encouragement to those who struggle, who can’t see their own worth and dignity?   Human to human, it’s both decent behavior and an uplifting thing.



Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) is a British artist best known for her abstract, modernist sculptures.   Born in Yorkshire and later making her home in St Ives, Cornwall, she spoke of her inspiration from the land around her and from human reactions to the landscape.


“..there is the human figure which in the country becomes a free and moving part of a greater whole.   This relationship between figure and landscape becomes vitally important to me”.

‘The Studio 132:643, 1946’.


I cannot write anything about landscape without writing about the human form and the human spirit inhabiting the landscape

‘Studio International 171, June 1966’


For her, we were not “on” the landscape, we were within it, part of it and reacting differently to its differing forms.   Being in the mountains is more than looking at a place, it does also influence how you view yourself in the world and as part of the world.


To find out more:   Barbara Hepworth-Within the Landscape exhibition at Abbot Hall Gallery, Kendal until 28th September 2014

The past does not define me, the future is mine to create…

Learning from the past is good.   Letting the past define you, not so good.

The title of this post is taken from day 1 of the Affirmation Challenge from Celestine’s website, Personal Excellence,   Wherever you are in life, or wherever you want to be, it’s a website worth visiting for inspiration and motivation.

I’m all too aware that on many occasions I’ve allowed something that happened in the past to persuade me that, no matter what, it couldn’t be different in the future so there was no point in trying to make it so.   As I don’t have a crystal ball or any skill in reading tarot cards or tea leaves, this was purely assumption on my part.   But it was an assumption I lived by and only on reflection did I realize how many opportunities I missed out on.

I’m just going to write about one little example from my life.   Swimming.   If you’ve read the poetry post about my school swimming hat, you will have probably deduced that I took to swimming like a duck takes to quantum physics.

Even now, I only swim breast stroke and very slowly.   I tried on a couple of occasions as an adult to learn the front crawl.   However, a combination of learning the breathing, putting my face in the water and getting the limb coordination required made it a struggle for me.   I’ve therefore never persisted and decided I was not someone who could learn front crawl.

But triathlon looked like fun.   And yes, I did the swim section by breast stroke.   500 metres in around 25 minutes-some of my fellow competitors were well into the bike leg while I was still gulping on chlorinated water.

Triathlon still looks fun and, of course I am not someone who can’t learn front crawl.   I am someone who has decided that she won’t learn due to her beliefs about swimming and the skill required, and therefore hasn’t made the effort to learn and practice the skills.   Big difference.

So in that little way, my past is not going to define my future and I’ve signed up for more swimming lessons in August.   Once that defining belief is exposed for what it is-just my belief, no more, no less-it’s an incentive to explore and examine other similar beliefs.

Start small and grow.


If you want to join about (at the moment) 300 others worldwide and take Celestine’s challenge, visit the website personal


On another topic, some good news locally from a charity I volunteer with, Lakeland Wildlife Oasis.   WWF-UK estimate that there are only 6,000 snow leopards left in the wild worldwide. Lakeland Wildlife Oasis is part of the international breeding programme for these gorgeous creatures.   Their snow leopards Tara and Pavan became the parents of these 2 little ones in May of this year.


The cubs are a boy and a girl, and haven’t been named yet, but they are part of the future survival of their species.   If you want to follow their progress, visit the website or “Like” their Facebook page.


I’ve had changes in my working life in the past.   Generally, as one door closed, another one opened.   And I would hurtle full-tilt down the hallway to that newly open door.   Next (predictable) stage of my life, here I come!


I was born in the 1970s and had what was the standard careers advice of the 1980s.   Find career path.   Stay with it.   Maybe move around on the path a bit, but stay on that path.   Never stray.   Retire.   Simple.   That was my career to date.   I have worked in 3 different workplaces in the last 20 years.   Or rather two for the first 7 years and one for the last 13 years.


However, in those 13 years, the world changed.   Things are done differently, often down to the economic upheavals of the last few years.   I changed.   The job changed.   The things I loved about my job seeped away and what was left, wasn’t for me.


So I walked away with no full-time work to go to, for the first time ever.   I do have some part-time work on an “as needed” basis and I’d also prepared financially for the change over the past year or so.    But this is a position in which I could not have imagined myself only a few years ago!


But I was ready for that change.   I’ve got some breathing space to recharge and plan for how I actually would like my future to look, rather than being swept along the path from the 1980s onwards.   I’m going to find a chair in the proverbial hallway and sit for a short while, weighing up a few of those doors which are, or might, be open.


I think it important that we make the process of change “good”.   A “bad” change process sends you on your way with negativity ahead and bitterness in your wake.   You never know where, on your future path, those particular waves might wash up.


I’m big on gratitude.   There were people who made my day a little happier or smoother.   They helped me when I was new or showed kindness.   It might only have been once or twice. Remember the good, even when it’s the bad or ugly that’s got you going in the first place.


Even though I wanted this change, this is still an upheaval for me.   My routines, finances, choices, even how and when I spend time, are all changing.   Running headlong into thick fog is not generally recommended, it’s a huge waste of energy and generally ends in confusion.   Get above it all, and you can see the way ahead.   Take time to consider the options.   Try to identify a destination.   When the way ahead is clearer, put energy into going forward towards the chosen horizon, rather than running around in (metaphorical) circles.


Even in the darkest night, small graces remind us that sunrise always follows.

Acquainted With The Night

I can hear the noise of silence,

See the colours of the dark,

My mind sees things my eyes cannot,

The past and the might-be future.


I am tired but sleep doesn’t come,

I cannot think of anything but my mind swirls with thoughts,

I cannot plan but the questions seeking answers still come to me,

Alone in my space, yet constrained on all sides.


Speculation takes my peace,

Imagination takes my joy,

My mind’s eye is steely, full of spite,

For my daring in dreaming, it seeks revenge.


I know that monsters walk at night,

The “hidden people” go among the living,

I am my own worst fear,

My mind against me.


I am acquainted with the night,

Fighting the dreaded, not wanting to be prey,

I want to escape, tired of the battle,

I want to sleep, my mind a friend.