If I Had My Life To Live Over

The following was written by columnist and humorist – the late Erma Bombeck.

If I had my life to live over, I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television – and more while watching life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more “I love you’s”.. More “I’m sorrys” …

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute… look at it and really see it … live it…and never give it back.

Money CAN Buy You Happiness

Yesterday I shared a little $20 challenge that I’m giving myself this week – to give away $20. I shared the challenge on social media and got a load of great feedback from both people who are joining the challenge and people who’ve done similar things before.

One person (Joel Turner on G+) pointed me to a TED video that I’ve posted below. In the video Michael Norton shares some research that takes on the saying ‘Money Can’t Buy You Happiness’. It turns out that Money can in fact buy happiness – if you spend it on the right thing… others.

Check it out for yourself and join our $20 Challenge and come back and tell us what you find!

My $20 Challenge #20Challenge

This morning I heard a challenge that I’m going to take up this week.

Put $20 (substitute the value depending upon your circumstances) in your wallet/purse this week that you’re not allowed to spend on yourself.

Put it in a spot that you don’t normally put cash and where you’ll see it and be reminded of this challenge (I’m going to put it in front of my credit cards).

As you go through the week look for an opportunity to give it away in a way that will make a positive difference for someone else.

You can give it away in any way that you wish.

The object of the challenge is to make someone else’s life better in some way – but I suspect it’ll have more of an impact upon me than anyone else.

  • What impact will being constantly reminded to look for need or opportunity to give around me have upon how I see the world?
  • How will it impact my view of my own circumstances and the perception I have of my own needs and problems?
  • Will being reminded to exercise generosity impact the way I live this week?

I’m not sure of the answers but I’ll be interested to see what happens.

I’d love for others to join me in this little challenge/experiment. Anyone else up for it?

PS: if you join in I’d LOVE to hear how you go with it. What do you do with your $20 and what did you learn during the challenge? Leave a comment below to share how you find the challenge.

Domestic Organization for Work-from-home Parents

Recently, I was mentioned in a blog post about home management and blogging. I left a fairly long comment on the post which and I thought some of what I shared might be of interest for the FeelGooder audience.

I’ve recently had my third child, L, arrive home from the hospital, so my wife and I are in the thick of family life. But of course I need to stay on top of work as well—and when you work from home, the lines can get a little blurry.

Here are my tips for working toward the work-life balance when your a parent with young children, and you work from home.

Set your priorities

For me, striking a balance is about working out what you want in your life, then structuring your life around that. It sounds simple, but it doesn’t always come easily for me. I’m not a particularly organized person, and I’m certainly not naturally “domestic.” But I do think we should at least identify what we want from life, and doing what is in our own control to achieve those goals.

Be willing to negotiate with yourself

I’m constantly negotiating with myself, on a personal level, as I look at my priorities and work out how I’m going to achieve them. This can be a real struggle at times—as I say, I’m not particularly “domestic” and there are 101 things I’d rather do than clean the bathroom! But all the same, I value hygiene and want be responsible for keeping my house (my family’s biggest asset) in order. So I constantly wrestle with myself to do those things I don’t particularly want to do.

At times, this negotiation has meant writing lists, setting daily tasks to complete, asking others to keep me accountable, and so on.

Be willing to negotiate with others

For me, living in a family requires us to work as a team. While we’re no “poster couple,” my wife and I are both reasonable people, and while we have our fair share of spats over who’s going to do the dishes, we’ve semi-regularly negotiated who does what in the house.

This has changed as our lives have changed. In the early days, V worked full-time, and quite long hours, so in addition to my part-time jobs, blogging, and studies, I structured my days so I did more of the domestic stuff. From memory, for quite a while we had a bit of a “roster” system—we were newly married and needed a bit more structure in that area of our lives. Some jobs we took turns on (cleaning bathrooms, dishes, groceries and so on), but others we did consistently (I vacuumed, she dusted, for example).

Blogging happened in between everything else that was going on.

Over the last nine years of marriage, our life’s changed. Today we have three kids aged five and under, including a three-week old, so we’re in a new phase—something we’ve had to negotiate and work hard on. My wife is on maternity leave and isn’t working, which also changes the mix. This week, I’ve cooked every night, she squeezed in a visit to the super market, I’ve looked after the kids from 7-9am each day while she’s had a sleep-in, she’s doen the night feeds, I’ve done the night settling … life’s different!

Outsource what you can

Over time, we’ve “outsourced” different tasks. Really, this has been the result of our priorities as well as our resources. We want to achieve, experience, and do certain things, and to be honest, right now it doesn’t all quite fit in.

  • As we have the resources to do so, we have someone come in for an hour every week or two to help with some cleaning.
  • I’ve brought in some help into my business to lighten my load so I can spend more time with family.
  • We probably get take out every couple of weeks.

All of these things help us achieve what we want to do with our lives. There have been times when we haven’t been able to afford them; at others, we’ve wrestled with guilt over some of it; at others, we’ve come to terms with the fact that by having someone help in a certain area, we’re better able to do things that we consider higher priorities.

I know that everyone’s family and home life is different, but hopefully these ideas give a picture of how we make things work—or attempt to! The reality is that, of course, it doesn’t always work. I have days when I’m lazy, distracted, or unfocused and need to pull myself into line (or need some accountability around that).

There have been times where it’s all just worked smoothly, without much negotiation, but at others, I’ve had to put systems in place (schedules, rosters, lists, etc.) to help me keep on track. I find that even a week or two of following a routine is sometimes enough to snap me back to a good rhythm. After that, I can let the formal systems go, and move on.

I do know that works for me: to sit down and work out your priorities, and from that plan a weekly or monthly schedule to help you move towards those goals. In time, you might find a new more natural rhythm.

This is how I do it, but we can all use advice on striking a balance. How do you manage work and home priorities? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments.

How to Get a Copy of the First FeelGooder Ebook Tomorrow for FREE

UPDATE: the eBook is now Launched – get your copy here.

FeelGooder is six months old and to celebrate we’ve created a little gift for our readership that we hope will make you Feel Better.

7 ways feelbetter.pngIt’s called 7 Ways to FeelBetter and we’re launching it tomorrow here on FeelGooder.

Best of all, if you act fast after we launch it, you’ll get it for free!

The idea

The idea for 7 Ways to FeelBetter came when I was having a bit of a bad patch a few months back. You know those times—the whole family seemed to have had the flu for weeks, work pressures were mounting and I was starting to feel just a little sorry for myself.

In the scheme of things, there wasn’t anything major wrong, but I was in a bit of a funk and needed something to help me break it.

I’m not sure if it’s just me, or if others are like this but I’m the kind of guy who needs a little project or challenge sometimes to get me moving, so the idea began to develop for a week-long project to help people Feel Better. I wanted it to be short enough for people to find achievable, as well as practical and action-oriented (just reading something isn’t enough for me).

I took the idea to the FeelGooder team and we began to brainstorm what it could look like. We asked ourselves, “What makes us feel good?” And we began to make a list those things in life that lift our spirits, help us to feel good, and that—more importantly—help us to “be” better as human beings.

As we looked at the list, we realized that most of them could be clustered into seven different areas:

  1. Exercise
  2. Save
  3. Connect
  4. Eat
  5. Act
  6. Play
  7. Think

Suddenly, we had the outline for our week-long challenge. So work began on our first-ever FeelGooder resource: 7 Ways to FeelBetter.

What is 7 Ways to FeelBetter?

This PDF ebook is designed to be read over seven days (or seven weeks, or even months if you want to take it slow) to get you thinking about each of these areas.

Each day gives you something to read and think about, questions to reflect upon, ideas for how to move forward in exploring the theme and resources to help you to apply what you come up with. It also includes an area to plan your next steps.

The ebook isn’t about giving you all the answers. Rather, it’s a springboard into the next week to help you more intentionally explore seven ways to feel—and be—better. My hope is that it’ll help those of us going through a “rough patch” a way out of it, and those of us already feeling good to take it to the next level.

We’ll also have a hashtag (#feelgooder7) for those working through the ebook to Tweet about where they’re at, and how they’re applying this resource—which will hopefully also add a communal element to the challenge!

What people are saying about it already

In the last few days, we’ve shot a few copies out to regular readers of FeelGooder to get their reactions, and the response has been fantastic! Here’s what a couple of people have already said:

jonathan-100.jpg7 Ways to FeelBetter is a fast and easy reminder to pay attention to what matters and and jumpstart the areas of your life that make the biggest difference in how you experience every day.”

Jonathan Fields, author from jonathanfields.com

MIA-FREEDMAN-100.jpg“For anyone who has ever found themself thinking “I’m stuck” or “Is this it?”, you need to read 7 Ways to FeelBetter. It’s fast and easy to read and yet it can make a profound difference to the way you think about your life. And live it.”

Mia Freedman, publisher at Mamamia.com.au

Meg-100.jpg “This ebook is like a pot of warm, melting chocolate… from the time you lay your eyes on it, all you want to do is devour it!  Each chapter is smoothly and deliciously filled with thoughtful, inspirational pieces of wisdom, allowing you to reflect, refocus and reinvigorate.”

Meg Filip, Executive Coach and Trainer from megfilip.com

First 500 downloaders get it free

7 Ways to FeelBetter will retail for $9.99 USD (which we hope is accessible to most) but to celebrate its launch, and to thank our regular readers for your support over the last six months, we’re going to give it away to the first 500 early birds who grab a copy for free.

FeelGooder five-dollar special

If you miss out on first free 500 ebooks, we’ll offer another 500 for $4.99 (first in, best dressed)!

Once that allocation of 1000 people have their copy we’ll be returning it to its normal price: $9.99.

I don’t really know how quickly the first 500 copies will go (or the next 500) but we will be launching it here on FeelGooder and to those on our newsletter list (which you can subscribe to from our sidebar) at around 7am Melbourne Australia time tomorrow (Friday).

That’s at 2pm Pacific time (Thursday), 5pm Eastern US time (Thursday), and 10pm UK time (Thursday).

So set your alarm clocks, and subscribe to our newsletter. We’ll see you at tomorrow’s launch!

The Art of Positivity (And How it Saved My Life)

Lately (in preparation to launch FeelGooder) I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading self improvement literature. I wanted to get a feel for the vibe of what’s being taught.

While there were certainly some good, positive resources in the mix of what I read, I also found myself reacting against some of the teaching that I saw.

There was a distinct negative thread running through some of the resources that left a bad taste in my mouth. It went something like this:

“Your life sucks and I’m going to show you how to fix all your problems.”

Okay, so I never read that exact statement anywhere, but it was a recurring theme.

Disclaimer: I’m a “The Glass is Full” kinda guy

Before I go on, I think I need to say up front that I’m a pretty positive guy—perhaps too positive. When people ask me whether I’m a “glass half-empty or glass half-full” person, I reply that it’s completely full (it’s half full of water and half full of air). I’m an optimist—annoyingly so (according to some of those closest to me).

Okay, with that disclaimer out of the way, lets get back to the negative thread I picked up in some of the self improvement literature that I’ve been reading.

It’s not that I don’t think people have problems that they need to work on or fix (I have my fair share) it’s just that I wonder whether a better starting point might be a positive place.

My darkest night

I wasn’t always a “glass full” kind of guy.

Back in 1993, as a 21-year old, I came to a place in my life where I didn’t see a lot of point in going on. Through a series of events (of broken relationships and friendships, death, depression, dependency, and failure) that I didn’t have an ability to process healthily, I found myself one night on the side of a highway considering throwing myself in front of a truck.

It was my Darkest Night and an experience that I know many share.

I was unable to find a way to move forward through the mess that I faced.

Obviously—as evidenced by the fact that I’m writing this—I didn’t act on the thoughts I was having that night. Over the days, months, and years that followed, I was gradually able to find sense in the circumstances that lead me to that place and saw my life head in a more positive direction.

What brought about the change?

A number of factors played a part in my recovery but one was the influence of a woman I’ll call Alice (it’s not her real name).

Alice was the mother of a friend, and a person who had seen her own fair share of hardship in life. She had every right to be negative, bitter, and living in a dark place too—but she wasn’t.

We had many conversations over that time. I remember coming to her with the problems that I faced and asking for advice. She would almost ignore them as she refocused me upon the positives in my life.

I wanted to solve my problems—fix my life and make it better. She wanted me to see that I already had a good life in many ways.

Over the coming months Alice helped me to reframe my view on life—to take my eyes off the things that needed fixing and to begin to see a future based upon the positives that were already present in my life.

These positives included people (family and friends), experiences, and passions—things that I’d failed to see because I was so absorbed in fixing the broken areas in my life.

At first I struggled against seeing the positive (I was so absorbed in what was broken), but in time I began to see a few glimmers of hope.

Practicing positivity

Being able to see the positive is not always an easy thing to do. In fact, it took me years to get good at it (and there are days where I still catch myself and need to “switch it on”).

For me, this was actually something I needed to practice. Alice helped me initially but as I began to see the impact it was having on me, it became something I started to work on more intentionally. Over time I learned to look for and spot the good stuff. I began to be more aware of what was giving me energy and build upon that. In time it became more natural.

What I found is that the more I looked for and started to focus upon thinking about and doing what was working in my life, the less important the problems were.

There have still been problems that I’ve needed to overcome and work on (positive thinking doesn’t fix everything), but what I’ve found is it’s easier to tackle a problem when you have a positive outlook than one which is negative.

Avoiding false positivity

I hope I’m not coming across as one of those people who delude themselves with false positivity. I’m certainly not talking about convincing yourself that something that is bad is actually good.

Sometimes life does get dark—legitimately so.

Sometimes we need to grieve.

Sometimes we need to feel those dark times and acknowledge that we hurt and are experiencing pain.

However, sometimes I suspect we can get so overwhelmed and focused upon the negatives of life that they hold us back from experiencing life.

Practicing positivity

So as you face the day ahead, or ponder the day that’s been, take a moment or two out to identify some of the good things in your life.

For some of you this will be an easy task—you’ve already made a long list in your mind.

For others, it’ll be more of a struggle, but I encourage you to try it. Think about the people around you, the experiences that you’ve had, the interests and passions that you have (or have once had). You might need to search high and low, but keep searching until you find a glimmer of good and let yourself ponder that for a while.

One last tip—if you’re someone who struggles to find the positive, find someone who doesn’t. I was in such a gloomy place in my life that it took someone like Alice to help me in this area. Perhaps there’s an Alice in your life that you can ask for help?

My #FeelGood10 – What Are Yours?

Ten things that make me feel good…

  1. feeling the sun on my bald head after a long winter
  2. hugs from my kids and wife
  3. walking
  4. a latte with one sugar (sugar must be sprinkled on top and not stirred)
  5. watching my kids discover something new
  6. doing (or giving) something that improves the life of someone else
  7. sleep (in a warm bed with flanelette sheets on a cold night)
  8. being entrepreneurial
  9. brainstorming
  10. public speaking

Here’s How I Tweeted It: My #FEELGOOD10 – Sun, Hugs, Walking, Lattes, Kids, Generosity, Sleep, Being Entrepreneurial, Brainstorming, Public Speaking

What ten things make you feel good?

What Makes YOU Feel Good?

What makes you ‘Feel Good’?

Image by Michael D. Dunn

I asked this question on our Facebook Page a few days ago and we got some interesting responses (see them here) so I thought it might be a good discussion starter here on the blog too.

It was interesting to identify some of the themes in the earlier conversation – one that came up repeatedly was people saying that they felt best when they were focusing their energies upon making others feel good.

“Adding value to someone’s life…. Perhaps by improving their health, circumstances, outlook.” – Brenda Hoffman Hook

“Getting a heartfelt “thank you” to a question I answered.” – Leo A. Notenboom

“Touching others through one’s own passion. Since doing my passion has given me so much happiness, knowing that others have also benefited from it only doubles my fulfillment.” – Georgia Catalan

There were other themes but that one struck me as it connected with some of the times in my life when I’d felt best.

Of course it’s not just some of those deeper things that make us feel good. I included the image above because every time I come across it I feel good and it reminds me of the many hours I spent as a kid jumping on beds (feeling good).

What makes you ‘Feel Good’?

PS: Perhaps another way to answer it would be to think about a time in your life when you felt good – and share what was going on for you at that point that made it such a good time.

The Power of Touch

Image by Fr. Stephen, MSC

Do you realize how little we touch one another?

When I was 19 I had the opportunity to spend a couple of months living and working in a community development project in one of Bangkok’s largest slums. I learned a lot from that trip, and I’m sure it’ll come up in a future post, as it was a formative experience for me, but one of the lasting memories I have of that trip is the amount I was physically touched.

The first time it happened I was walking down the street with two local guys that I’d met the day before. They’d been friendly but we’d only just met and I’m not sure that I’d have called them friends just yet.

As we walked down the street, one of the men slipped his arm around my shoulder. A few minutes later the other took my hand. The three of us strolled down the street, arm in arm, hand in hand.

They were totally natural about it. I was in the middle, and I was freaking out, wondering if I was going to have to talk my way out of a compromising situation.

The thing was that there was nothing sexual about the touch of these guys. Over the coming weeks I saw and experienced it many times over. Men sitting arm in arm with each other, and women walking down the street hand in hand.

It took me a while to take off my Western Glasses and get used to it. The Thai people were just much more able to express their feelings and comfort with each other using touch than I’d ever been.

Interestingly, as I reflect back on those two months in a Thai slum, I realize that while I was in a fairly stressful situation, it was one of the times in my life that I felt most at peace and relaxed. There may be numerous reasons for that, but I suspect one was touch.

The Power of Touch

It has been well documented that touch is a very powerful thing.

Any parent doing a pre-natal class has it drummed into them. Babies that are touched regularly thrive, while those that aren’t touched, don’t.

Image by _Nezemnaya_

Touch is effectively our first language as a baby:

  • Touch helps create the bond between a baby and its parents.
  • Touch helps to calm and soothe a distressed baby.
  • Touch is thought to help in neurological developmen.
  • Touch is thought to help relieve physical discomfort.

The list goes on—particularly in the early years, it’s widely accepted that touch is essential.

I still remember being taken to an orphanage on that same trip to Thailand, and seeing a room full of young children and babies in cots who were rarely touched. The looks on the faces of those children still haunt me. Distressed, lonely, and obviously physically unwell, these children were physically cared for, but something was missing—loving touch.

I still remember picking up one of the babies in that room. When I picked her up she was a very stressed little girl but over the next 30 minutes as I held her and massaged her little arms and cheeks she relaxed and the distress in her face melted away. Leaving her alone in her cot, perhaps never to be cuddled again, was one of the toughest things I’ve done.

Experiences like that have made me very aware of the importance of touch as I raise my own children today. My kids have been massaged, cuddled, kissed, and tickled since the days they were born. Of course the touch is backed up with love and care in other areas, but we’ve gone out of our way to use touch in day-to-day of life.

Touch beyond childhood

Somewhere along the line, physical touch slowly drops out of the lives of many of us. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it changes in nature.

I’m no sociologist but somewhere as we grow older and enter into adolescence touch tends to become sexualized. On some levels I guess that’s natural—we hit puberty, those hormones begin to pump around our bodies, our sexuality wakes up, and we begin to become aware of touch with new possibilities.

The problem is that for many of us non-sexual touch tends to exit life at this point.

Image by Patrick Gage

The need for touch doesn’t end, though—and that sets us up for something of a problem.

Sure, we still use it when greeting each other—handshakes, perhaps a hug or a kiss on the cheek—but part of me wonders whether we’re short-changing ourselves a little.

I’m not saying we all need to touch one another indiscriminately—there’s a need for common sense, boundaries, and appropriate touch—but it strikes me that perhaps as a society that we could learn a thing or two about this topic.

If touch is such a powerful thing, why do we reserve it for kids, fleeting greetings, or the bedroom?

Have your say

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this—either in comments below or on our Facebook page where we’ve already been chatting about touch and have had some interesting input on topics including touch in health care, pets, and the cultural differences of touch.

Welcome to FeelGooder

Welcome to FeelGooder—a blog that has lived in my mind for years now, but which today becomes a reality.

I’ve been blogging for a number of years, and have always had as my number one goal to build sites that empower and equip people to improve in some area of their life. To this point, these blogs have had fairly narrow focuses—they’ve been about Photography, Twitter, and Blogging.

I’ve enjoyed these sites immensely but have always wanted to build a site with a broader focus that touched on other important “life topics”:

  • As a Dad with a young family,  I’d love to talk about and learn from others on topics like raising kids and being a good husband.
  • As a person with a growing home business, I’d love to connect with others who are on a similar path.
  • As a guy with a tummy a little too big for the rest of my body, I’d like to create a space where we can talk about issues of living more healthily.
  • As someone with a passion for making the world a better place, I’d love to be involved in a community that wasn’t just interested in self improvement, but in world improvement.

You get the picture. I want to be involved in a site that’s all about helping those who read (and write) it to lead lives that are everything that they can be.

This is not a site for me to tell you how to live—you wouldn’t want that! Rather, I hope it can be a place where we inform and inspire one another to not only Feel Good(er) but to Be Good(er).

In doing so I’m envisaging we’ll be touching on a lot of topics. Over the months and years ahead I suspect we’ll talk about everything from fitness and healthy living, to relationships, to emotional well being, to finance, to living generously, to parenting, to food, to productivity tips, and much, much more. But to start with we’ll focus upon five main categories:

  1. Health: fitness, diet, and emotional well being and more
  2. Relationships: family, friendship, romance, etc.
  3. Work: careers, entrepreneurship and developing skills for the workplace
  4. Finance: tips and stories to help look after the hip pocket
  5. Social Good: sustainable living, generosity, and making the world in a better place

To start with the site will run simply as a blog (with a mix of the above topics) but as we see what people write about and what ideas are resonating with those who read it, we hope to evolve the site and develop some regular columns and features.

Consider what we’re doing today a ‘soft launch’—something of a test to see what does and doesn’t work. I’m aiming for a fuller launch in January 2011.

Join the journey

If you’d like to journey with FeelGooder, there are a couple of ways you can do it.

1. Subscribe, follow, connect

For starters I’d love you to connect with FeelGooder by subscribing or following us in a way that suits your natural online rhythms. We have an email newsletter, an RSS feed, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page so far. Connect with the ones that fit with the way that you use the web.

2. Contribute

If you’d like to do more than follow what FeelGooder does—if you’d like to be a part of creating it—I’d love to hear from you. I’ve already lined up numerous contributors but I’m open to developing a team of people who are committed to the same sort of vision, and are interested in seeing where it might lead us.

Initially contributions will be accepted through voluntary guest posts, but as the site grows I’ll be looking to see how we can benefit those who contribute more than simply linking to their blogs and sites. If you’d like to contribute around some of the topics mentioned above, please make contact with any ideas you have for articles via our contact form.

Lastly – a big thanks to a few people including Lachlan Donald (server guru), Brian Gardner (who designed our theme based upon his Genesis framework) and Georgina Laidlaw (who will be editing FeelGooder) – as well as all the contributors who have already submitted posts and who are working on them.

I’m excited by the birth of FeelGooder today and hope that you’ll journey with us as we explore the possibilities of the site together. Stay tuned for our first post in the next hour or so!