Creating Coincidence

I don’t believe in fate. Simple as that. I’m not someone who believes in horoscopes, or destiny, or that the world owes me anything. I don’t believe in karma, I don’t believe in judgement, and I don’t believe the world is fair… I do believe in coincidences though, but I also believe we can create these coincidences for ourselves.

For those of you that have been following, I’ve been a bit down recently. I don’t have a lot to grumble about, I mean I probably find myself stuck at work too often, and the house is constantly needing work done, but overall I have a good life. What I’ve lacked though, is motivation. The worst thing about feeling unmotivated is it can snowball; by feeling unmotivated you end up doing nothing, and the more you do nothing the less inclined you are to do anything. It’s harder to fight the inertia of doing nothing and actually do something.

This is where coincidences come into play.

You see, I have a cycle. I have moments of pure, unadulterated enthusiasm, where the world is open to me and I am en route to achieving my dreams… then I have moments where I wallow, unimpressed with my previous efforts (or lack of) and let myself sink into an unmotivated state. It can take a while for me to break this cycle, heck it can take a while for me to realise the cycle is happening, despite the amount of practice I have dealing with it and despite how obvious the signs should be by now. Sometimes, though, life breaks the cycle for you.

You may know by now that I’m a Partner of Level Up Photography LLP, well, on Saturday, Greg and I shot our first Wedding of the year! It couldn’t have come at a better time. What a kick up the ass! What a way to fuel a dwindling passion! What a way to fight the inertia! What a coincidence that it came when I needed it most… but hold on, it’s not exactly a coincidence is it?

The timing, and my mind-set, were both a coincidence, I’ll grant you. The timing was perfect, I needed inspiration and here it was handed to me on a plate. The set up though? That’s a different matter entirely. The thing is, we’d been booked to do this Wedding for months. We’d done the legwork, we’d contacted the Bride, we’d provided the service; there was no coincidence there.

The point I’m making is we can create these opportunities, we create these coincidences. I may not believe in fate, or destiny, but I believe that if you put yourself out there you stand more chance of getting results. That’s just logic. When I lie around grumbling that I’m uninspired, unmotivated, unfulfilled, I am simply not putting myself into a place with opportunity… in fact, I’m slipping away into reclusion where talents go to waste. If it hadn’t been for our previous Photography work, Greg and I wouldn’t have been booked for that Wedding. Similarly, If I hadn’t written blogs previously, you wouldn’t be here reading today.

Saturday has been a fantastic motivator. It’s been a reminder of the end goal and proof of what can be achieved with a bit of time and effort. Do I wish it happened more often? That my life was spent more often in a creative pursuit than a 9-5 office role? I do, but when I wallow in that I close the doors to my preferred future. By taking the smaller steps and by keeping up the motivation these days of inspiration are more likely to occur. That, really, is today’s message.

Today’s message, both to readers and to myself, is simply: Put yourself out there. Opportunities will appear only when you open yourself up to them. You’re going to have days, weeks, months where your work feels unsatisfactory, where you feel it’s all for nothing, but as long as you keep creating, keep putting things out there, your own work might provide an opportunity and, coincidentally, it might arrive at just the right time. Keep creating your own coincidences. Keep yourself open to opportunity.

Have you had any moments like this? Where inspiration occurred at just the right time? What do you think, was it fate or was it self-made? Let me know in the comments below!

5 Simple Steps to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed and Feel Productive Instead!

Do you ever feel completely overwhelmed? As though there is simply so much to do and there’s literally no way you can achieve it all? As though you’re drowning under a sea of never-ending tasks?

 

Forgive the hyperbole title but this has been a source of stress and anxiety for me recently. I’ve felt like life was drowning me. I’ve felt like I have had so much to juggle but no arms to do so with. The more I get stressed, the more likely I am to put off a task, and the more I put off the task, the more stressful it seems later on. As I described in Fridays Post, LINK, it’s a vicious cycle that continues like a malevolent ouroboros. I’m on my way to combat this, so I thought I’d put it into a post to help others too. Please understand I’m not speaking the gospel, my methods are not for everybody and we all live life our own way, these are just the ramblings of one man trying to make sense of his world. That said, if my words are even the slightest bit of help for you, then that makes them 100% more worthwhile.

1. Make a Plan!

In my eyes, making a plan is one of the single best things you can do; I recommend it wholeheartedly. When you make a plan you aid yourself by making your tasks look more manageable. Just by listing down your tasks, you make the tasks look more approachable. Our minds have a way of overthinking and things seem scary when they’re left to the imagination. By writing things down you give it more solidarity. Suddenly, tasks can seem a lot more manageable and a lot less intimidating. By setting yourself realistic deadlines too, if your plan goes to that much detail, you can start working slowly towards it. Plus making a plan is productive in itself! That’s a win!

2. Stick to Something!

Going hand in hand with Making a Plan, I would also advise you stick to something. You may be asking “Stick to What?”, but the beauty is it can be anything. Perhaps you decide to take five minutes of mindfulness each day, perhaps you want to go for a walk every Tuesday, perhaps you just want to read a chapter of a book each morning with your cereal… It could honestly be anything at all. It could be something you want to do, something fun, or it could be something you need to do. By Sticking to Something we form discipline, and by doing what we set our minds to do, even if it’s the smallest of the small, it’s a success…

Wait, you don’t think it’s a success? Well maybe we need to…

3. Redefine Success!

This is important. Often we feel overwhelmed because we think we need to do everything; you feel you need to write a whole book, you need to decorate the whole house, you need to fix every little problem all at once. This often isn’t the case, and it is often more to do with our mindsets, or our definitions of success. Really, success is anything you specify and we should treat it as such. If you’ve been struggling to get out of bed each morning, then it’s a success when you do. If you get up five or ten minutes earlier one day, there’s a big success right there and you’ve only just started your day! Don’t let anyone else define success for you, don’t let anyone tell you that your dreams have to be achieved this way or that, success is a personal, intimate thing and you do whatever spurs you on to keep reaching those goals!

4. Exercise!

Wow, I can’t believe that I’m someone recommending this one. The thing is, exercise helps you out of a rut, and it helps you feel more motivated in other areas. By going home each night and sitting on your bum, watching TV, you are just encouraging your body to become lethargic and tired. Exercise is great for refreshing your body and your mind. I find that, as counterproductive as this sounds, this actually works best if you don’t want to exercise in the first place… Why? Because you’re showing you’re stronger than your base instincts. If every part of you is saying “Come on, let’s give in, let’s have a McDonalds and watch Netflix all night”, but instead you force yourself to the gym, then you are showing that you are in control! You’re showing that you can overcome even yourself! Now if that’s not success, I don’t know what is. Not to mention, if this is the thing you want to ‘Stick’ to, maybe it’s a Monday Gym Session you’d normally put off, then you’re nailing all areas of my advice!

Speaking of which, my biggest piece of advice?

5. Breaking the Cycle!

If you’re like me, putting stuff off because of stress, only to stress later because you’ve put it off and therefore put it off some more… You need to break the cycle. You might feel like you need to do something drastic to break the cycle. Maybe you’ve been putting off writing a book and feel you need to write an entire chapter just to fix that. Wrong! Whilst doing that would be a great way to break the cycle, remember that doing anything is actually a break! There’s no need to get yourself worked up writing something as daunting as a chapter; maybe you write a page, or even a paragraph… Well done! You’ve broke the cycle. You’ve gone from nothing, to something, and that is a brilliant start. What follows is often a feeling a well-being, especially if we’ve redefined our meaning of success, and I can assure you that by taking the tiniest of steps forward, you feel better about taking the bigger ones. My mantra is: small steps towards the future.

All in all, if you really need to get out from under a heap of things, just take a single small step! If I’ve realised anything, it’s how much things snowball. By taking a small step, you’re more likely to take bigger ones, by making a plan, you’re more likely to act upon it. The more we put stuff off, the more stressed, more anxious, and even the more lazy we become. If this is you, and it certainly is me, start small and just do something! You’ll get there if you keep moving forward!

I really hope this post was helpful in some way, it’s something I’ve been trying to combat myself and thought I’d share my findings. Does this kind of thing work for you? Or do you maybe have some tips to share yourself? Let me know in the comments below!

When Problems are their own Solutions.

Have you ever realised that sometimes you solve your problems by… solving your problems. I don’t know how to put it better than that, and maybe it’s just me, but it’s so utterly obvious sometimes I manage miss it.

Before this post, this one you’re reading here, I started a post where I once again moaned and waffled on about my motivation. In this previous post, I talked about how my writing wasn’t flowing recently (and in truth, it hasn’t been) and I talked about how I was feeling pretty run down and a bit, for lack of a better word, shit. As I wrote this previous post, I started to lighten up, and the crumminess I felt throughout the day started to disappear. I was still tired, I was still a little bit disheartened, but I was feeling a bit more determined. Why?

Well, one of the reasons I feel naff is when I don’t feel productive. I’m all for lazy days, lazy weeks, hell give me a lazy month, but after a while they start to creep up on me and I realise that I’m wasting my time on this planet once more; I’m not working towards my goals, I’m not investing in my future. This gets me down – in fact it gets me down big time – but I often don’t realise it until it happens. It’s weird that way, I grumble and complain but I simply don’t realise the source of it all. The thing is, as I was writing the previous, now completely scrapped post I was simply trying to hit my “One Post Every Monday Guaranteed” target. It was purely some personal waffle aimed at making sure I didn’t let myself, my blog, or my audience down. In other words, it was actually productive. Now don’t get me wrong, it certainly wasn’t very good, case-in-point it’s now scrapped, and it was purely some filler piece designed to hit a statistic, but it was also progress towards something. I started to fix my problem by actually fixing my problem.

The problem with feeling unmotivated is that it can feel like quicksand. It can feel like you want to do all these things, but you can’t, or you won’t, or you don’t know how… and so you sink further. We distract ourselves from this with TV, with Video Games, with scrolling down Facebook… and we continue to sink without noticing. Just like quicksand though (and hopefully my armchair expertise on this subject doesn’t fail me) it’s about taking a slow progress. Simply by sitting down and writing, even if it was complete and utter waffle, I took a small step and I felt better, I felt lighter, I didn’t feel as stuck. Was it because I was unloading my feelings onto electronic paper? That was probably a help! Writing always makes me feel better! But it was also because I was doing what I set out to do. I was writing, which is my goal, and I was blogging and hitting that Monday deadline.

It amazes me that I don’t notice this solution more often, despite how often this cycle continues. I’ve even written before about how often I feel unmotivated only to realise it takes that one simple step forward… that little bit of productivity… and it can snowball. Productivity encourages more productivity, writing encourages more writing, and putting stuff off encourages more putting stuff off… I’m going to try not to do the latter.

Here’s to a productive week ahead!

What about you? Is there anything small you’ve been putting off that could make a big difference? Maybe this is the week to get started! Let me know in the comments below!

Who am I?

As I write this I have two drafts open: the first is a Review of Ghost in the Shell (2017) and the second is an article entitled “5 Reasons Horizon: Zero Dawn should be Celebrated”. The latter I’ve been working on for some time, the former is simply because I watched Ghost in the Shell tonight and I’ve recently given myself the task of reviewing the films I go to see.

The reason they’re both still sitting at the ‘Draft’ stage is because I haven’t been able to post them. The reason I haven’t been able to post them is because I’m a little unsure of myself. This post is basically me trying to talk myself into doing so.

The thing is, both articles deal very heavily in ‘theme’ and ‘issues’, they deal with ‘opinion’ and ‘belief’. All blogging does, to an extent. Maybe you write a blog simply about your day, your opinions still bleed through, your belief systems are there. When it comes to a review though, or an article, I find that if I’m tackling themes within the medium I’m discussing I need to at least be knowledgeable. There are plenty of people out there who simply discuss whatever comes to mind, knowledgeable or not, I mean you only have to see the outcries on Facebook or Twitter anytime anyone does anything. As much as I love to hear my own opinion, it’s partly what fuels this blog after all, I am also very wary when commenting on something else. If I review Ghost in the Shell, as I intend to do, and I discuss it’s themes and what they do/don’t do well, I begin to ask myself “Who am I to judge?”. I begin to talk myself out of posting my opinion, or I try to make myself edit things to seem less… ‘know-it-all-y’. I suppose I’m cautious about posting something and sounding as though I’m dealing in hard fact, when really it’s opinion, and from there I’m concerned with voicing an opinion when it isn’t fully versed in the subject. After all, I wouldn’t post on here about Science, or Politics, that I know nothing about, why should I voice about Games and Films?

What I do know, though, is what I enjoy and what I take away from a piece of art. The subjectivity of art gives us free-reign to voice our opinions on it and not be necessarily wrong. Messages might be woven into the narrative of a game or film, but if we take something else away it’s not our fault, nor is it necessarily the fault of the creator. Maybe a certain message or theme could be executed better, or maybe it just wasn’t for us to pick up on. Art will always appeal to different people, nobody will like everything. I could write home about how absolutely incredible this, or that, is and you might have a completely opposite experience. I could write about how a theme within a game really resonates with me, and you might simply not see it.

I suppose the question I ask myself “Who am I to judge this piece of art?”, well “Who is anyone?”. When I review something, I am telling the world what I took away from it, rightly or wrongly. Nobody can be blamed for their opinion, they can perhaps be better educated in some things, but then that is the duty of the rest of us. Some of the best pieces of work out there are also the most decisive. A difference of opinion, when done tactfully, keeps things interesting. It would be boring if we all thought the same, wouldn’t it?

And there we have it, I’ve talked myself into posting my review. It’ll probably go up on Tuesday.

Lessons in Dedication from Meat Free Mondays

What is commitment without dedication?

I do something called ‘Meat Free Monday’, because you know me I love a good alliterative occasion.

Basically, on Monday I am, for all intents and purposes, Vegetarian. Now the point of this post isn’t to try and sell anyone on the idea of vegetarianism, nor is it’s point to boast and claim I am setting some form of example at all. Many people have their own reason for being Vegetarian/Vegan; be it the treatment of animals, the industry at large, simply not liking the taste, or all of the above. Personally, I completely agree that the Meat Industry is doing more harm than good to our world, but I’m a fussy eater who just happens to love the taste of meat… So, what am I going to do?

Well, ‘Meat Free Monday’ for a start. It’s a small window into the life of a Vegetarian. It makes it easier for me to imagine a future as a vegetarian, and it opens my eyes to the food options out there that I actually quite like (or, at the very least, could get used to). Stocking my fridge and freezer ready for a Monday actually means I have more options in during the week and, what at first was almost a punishment to me, has just become a way of life. I’ve also discovered I actually prefer Spaghetti Bolognaise made with Quorn Mince, rather than beef! Something I never thought I’d say. Not to mention it’s far healthier! All that said, one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt from this isn’t simply “How could I be vegetarian?”, it isn’t even  “What options are out there for me?“, it’s about dedication.

See, without being ‘fully’ vegetarian, ‘Meat Free Monday’ isn’t exactly set in stone. What’s to stop me, say, moving it to Tuesday. I’m still doing my one meat free day a week, even if it does upset my alliteration obsession. This cross-roads actually occurred the other Monday when Kirsty was going out to a gig and had very little time to eat. She wanted a McDonalds (a Non-Vegetarian option, no less) and so my mind began to consider putting off ‘Meat Free Monday’ and simply doing it Tuesday, or Wednesday. Then it kind of occurred to me that, I really am just a Vegetarianism Tourist, sampling a lifestyle that some people make as a truly moral choice and a great amount of effort into doing. What first started as an activity to simply cut down on meat, albeit one day at a time, now means a bit more to me. By flippantly moving the day about I am completely undermining my dedication. Vegetarians can’t move their days around, can’t have a little bit of meat here and there as they choose (well, they can, nothings stopping them, but you get the meaning…). I decided that, even with Kirsty going out (always a weakness for me when it comes to my eating habits), even when faced with a McDonalds (which smelt, SO good and I love Chicken Selects with that spicy BBQ dip), that I had to stick to my guns and eat a meal that my vegetarian friends (of which there are many – and it’s multiplying) would be proud of.

The true lesson here isn’t about eating meat; eat what you like. The lesson I’ve learnt here is about commitment and dedication; it’s about staying on a path you set yourself for. As soon as you skip one day of something, you’re likely to skip another, and another, and another; you undermine yourself and you show yourself that your goal can be put to one side when it becomes slightly hard or it doesn’t quite fit your plan.

You can apply this to anything you’re trying to do; if you’re trying to write every day, go to the gym three times a week, or trying to eat a little healthy. Of course, there are genuine reasons to put a hold on something, sometimes you’re required to give yourself a little leniency. Often though, we can talk ourselves into giving up for ‘just a day‘. That one day when you’re that bit too tired for the gym… when really it’s more that you can’t be arsed. That one day when you’re in a rush so might as well have a McDonalds, when really you could just as easily grab a salad or some soup. If you’re anything like me, you can talk yourself into giving up these things fairly easily. If you’re anything like me, all the best intentions in the world can be put off for an extra hour in bed, or an extra takeaway, or an extra box of chocolates. However, the more we set a good example to ourselves, the more we power through those moments when we really could stick to our goals, if only we pushed ourselves a little bit more, if only we didn’t give in to ourselves… the easier these goals are to maintain and take forward, and the harder they are to simply put off in the future.

How about you? Have you set yourself any goals you struggle to keep? How do you manage it? Let me know in the comments below!

My Lens: Part 3 – The Power of a Lens

What is your perspective of the world? Do you ever consider how much it changes?

It’s a post I’ve written before and one I’ve been thinking about more and more of recent. Coupled with Throwback Thursday I’ve revisited my two earlier posts, My Lens: Part 1 – Seeing the World in Pictures and Words and My Lens: Part 2 – A Happier Perspective, and, besides from realising how my writing and blogging style has changed since those earlier days here on the Clouds, I’ve also realised just how true it still is.

Part 1 deals with how our hobbies and interests shape how we see the world; the more we write, the more things that present themselves to be written about, the more photos we take, the more opportunities we see. I’ve found this to be fundamentally true as I’ve gone on. The “My Lens” series was one of my first blogs written to be read my a bigger audience, a less personal post. It was around a time when blogging was new to me and one of my fears was that I’d have nothing to say. Recently, I’ve had a lot of blogs scheduled way in advance, I’ve been proud of that, but it also meant I’ve rested on my laurels a bit. Due to this, I’ve actually noticed I’m far less inspired by things around me. Blog posts aren’t sitting around in my head waiting to be written, and my 9-5 is leaving me exhausted and too tired to write.

Part 2 of the My Lens series dealt with Mindsets; the more you practice positivity the more positive things will be. Written like that, it sounds pretty self-explanatory, but it’s the opposite that most people tend to ignore; the more negative you are the more negative things will seem. I know a lot of people who are negative, who’s believe the world is out to get them, that nothing ever goes right. They spend so long focused on the negativity, that not only does every new experience seem negative to them, but they’re ignoring and glossing over the positive too. When something good happens to them, it’s only a matter of time (in their eyes) before life is going to go to shit again. In this way we curse ourselves to a damned unhappy existence.

So, what’s this part 3? Why has it taken so long?

Firstly, it’s took so long because I’ve just spent hours writing a blog that, in actuality, was really waffley, self-indulgent, and had no real baring on anyone else. It had a message, certainly, but it took ages to get there. Stay with me for a bit though, let me see if I can break down to the true meaning of Part 3.

Power.

Part 3, is ultimately about the Power of a Lens. Like Skills, the Lens you don’t practice with is lost. The less writing I do, the less I see to write about. The less photographs I take, the less shots I see out there in the world. The less positive my outlook, the less positive things seem. It can become a somewhat self-fulfilling cycle and one you may have to consciously break or you’ll feel all hope is lost.

Now, bare in mind that your perspective doesn’t just have the power to shape your view, it has the power to shape your whole world. By practicing something like writing I will get better, I will also see more to write about, I will find more opportunity. Now consider if I practice love. By practicing love we will find more love reciprocated in the world around. It’s this that Part 3 is about. That there is power in the way you see the world.

This power that perspectives have over our lives is both a blessing and a curse. Whilst it enables and opens our eyes to the wonders around, perspectives also denote your blind spots, if you practice counting your money, you start to only see the world in monetary gain. You’ll  be more blind to the things money can’t buy, the things in life like love, gratitude, support. I’ve spoke before on what value truly is in How We Misinterpret Value. and I feel the need to point out how that is very much a perspective, a lens. After all, the old adage of “When you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” works well here. Those who are so money focused will be the kind of person to think money solves everything; that their problems stem from too little of it, and that they can solve them by throwing their hard earned dough that further away. Similarly, those who haven’t ever seen love, and therefore don’t practice love, will be blind to its presence; may even scoff when you talk of its ability in changing the world.

We need to all be aware of how our perspective is shaping the world around us; the good and the bad it can do. We can shape the world to be more aware of the special, photo-perfect moments, we can shape it so we can see love, kindness and gratitude, or our perspectives can make us blind, they can act as narrow blinkers blocking all but that which we want to see. Our perspectives also let us see where others have blindspots, when people don’t care about others, or about society, or about the world at large. Our perspectives can show us the society-induced blindspots. The more we open ourselves to these more accepting viewpoints, the clearer the narrow view of the world at large can look.

I think the point I’m making clear here is… that after a rewrite this post is still pretty waffley. (Evidence I haven’t written something in a while… evidence that I’m on Day 9 of 13 shifts at work…) But the actual point I’m trying to make here is that it’s worth reflecting on your own lens, the behaviours you practice in your life, and thinking about the power they have in shaping the world around you. Is something you’re focused on shaping your world? And if so, is it for better or for the worse?

So, as homework, what would you say your ‘Lenses’ were. How do you see the world? And, on reflection, are there any lenses you’d like to switch out? Let me know in the comments below!

Looking Back at Fizz Free February

As I write this I’m drinking a bottle of Pepsi Max… I wish I could claim it is some sort of experiment I am conducting, but really I’m just thirsty and it was the only thing available (besides plain water, bleh!).

Last month I was doing Fizz Free February: A Fight with Caffeine Addiction and I thought that, after my first post and since it’s now March, that it was worth checking in on this subject to see how I was fairing a month down the line. In the interest of accuracy, it is worth noting that, dispite ‘Fizz Free’ being the title, I wasn’t 100% Fizz Free. In fact, it is probably more apt to call it ‘Reduced Fizz February’ instead. That said, even Kirsty will admit my habits are completely and utterly changed.

So, when have I been drinking ‘Fizz’ (in our case, Pepsi Max). I’ve drank the dreaded Fizzy Pop when it’s been a bit of a treat, i.e. with a meal out, or with a takeaway (might as well, since I’m ruining my body with grease anyway, right?). That said, there have been a few moments where I’ve had a bottle, one of those 600ml, 20% Bigger** bottles, and I’ve drank them fairly slowly. I used to drink these constantly, I could finish them in a few minutes, but now? Well, I can make one last. Not only that, but they sometimes leave me feeling a bit naff. They make me feel bloated and yuck… this one certainly is!

Of course, I used to notice this before, but I think I was just that conditioned to filling up my body with them that I’d accepted it as a standard feeling. It wasn’t until I felt better that I began to realise the body shouldn’t feel this way. That’s a lesson for life right there, sometimes you don’t realise how naff you feel until you feel better.

For some people this might be enough to never touch it again, but like a kid (or, lets face it, Grown Ass Adult) who keeps eating his weight in chocolates despite the awful repercussions afterwards, I’ll still continue to drink it; I know I will. I also know, though, that my addiction is broken.

I certainly don’t find myself craving it as I used to. When faced with the option of a drink of Pepsi Max or a drink of Water (with Cordial, thanks) I would always opt for the Pepsi Max, it always seemed the most delicious. Now though, coupled with the bloating after effects, I realise it just doesn’t quench my thirst, and I notice I actually prefer to reach for my cordial infused water far more often.

As for Caffeine, the major feature of the previous article, I’m not entirely sure I’ve fully recovered. I have days where I wake up as though I haven’t slept, where it feels like the time between my head hitting the pillow and my alarm (Kirsty’s hairdryer) going off were instantaneous. I think these moments are just symptoms of life, though, rather than symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. Same goes for me being moody, having a foggy head, or being demotivated. These are just my usual cycles, previously enhanced by withdrawal, and now settling into a norm. Who knows, though? All I know is I don’t need it anymore, and that’s good. Too much reliance on anything outside of prescribed medication is a bad thing.

So, has Fizz Free February been a success? Damn right it has.

At least, I think it has.

Let’s Recap: No more addiction, no more cravings, saving a ton of money (who knew Water was so cheap?), and functioning with minimal withdrawal.

That’s a success right there!