In 5 Years Time: A Thursday Thought

Where will you be in 5 Years time? Can you visualise it? These are the questions being asked today.

I’m doing something a bit different this Thursday, by answering the questions posed by Shelley’s Blog in her post January in Review!

Q1. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What small steps can you take between now and December 31st to achieve it?

In 5 years I see myself as a writer/photographer. I’m out of the daily 9 – 5 grind, I’m out of the sterile, stressful, impersonal office, and I’m in a studio of my own. Level Up Photography is bringing in frequent customers, Dark Background is publishing my work and the works of others, and in the down time I’m writing my novels or working on the Clouds.

The small steps to get there are the usual: Do more! Write more! Greg and I over at Level Up have been meeting this week, we’re getting the paperwork sorted, the website sorted and we have a client meeting in a few weeks. Things are running smooth there. As for my writing, I just need to write more, as I always need to, but thankfully I’ll finally be getting my study set up this month so that should create a dramatic increase in productivity.

Q2. What does a day in the life of your dreams look like? Write your perfect day from the minute you wake up to when you go to bed. Where are you, who are you with, what would you do?

I wake up next to Kirsty. We snuggle for a bit before getting up.

We go downstairs and feed Toby (our Cat) and, if Kirsty has it her way, the dog (She’s Pug-Obsessed).

We cook breakfast and call down the kids (I’m assuming this is the 5 years’ time, scenario)

I leave for the studio, and drop the kids to school along the way.

I work on my latest novel, or read the latest manuscript, or edit the latest clients photographs.

When all my appointments are done I drive back home.

I spend some time with Kirsty before we have to pick the kids back up.

Then in the evening we all eat together, we watch TV, read, or play boardgames.

The kids go to bed, Kirsty and I snuggle on the couch, Toby tries to squeeze in between us as always.

We go to bed together, I read for a bit, then we fall asleep to begin the day anew.

Q3. If money was not an issue what career would you have or what lifestyle would you adopt?

Studio! Studio! Studio!

Writing, Photography, Publishing.  They’re my main aims; they’re how I want to make my livelihood.

That said, “if money was not an issue” I’ve always said I’d love to run my own small games company. It’s a daydream of mine that, when I win the lottery, I’ll hire a bunch of students and create video games… Put my writing into that form as well as books and blogs!

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So, there we have it. That’s where I will be in 5 years… Give or take. As always, thanks to Shelley for those reflective questions, was great fun to fill out! Why not give it a go? Feel free to ping back here so I can see yours too!

3 Steps to Help Combat your Anxieties!

Problems are causes of anxiety, of unhappiness, of stress and we need to combat them effectively as soon as we can; most importantly we need to make sure we combat the source and not the symptom.

For me here on the Clouds, the running theme of January, and 2017 in general, has been about self-improvement. There are a few ways we can improve, we can find areas where we have room to grow, areas that aren’t necessarily problematic, or we can find the areas where our bigger issues lie. I’ve written before about expanding my horizons, about taking risks, and about stepping out of my comfort-zone, and whilst these are areas I want to improve, they’re ‘nice to have’; they’re not active problems in my lifestyle. If I don’t read more books, and if I don’t get out more, I’m not necessarily going to negatively impact my life so much as I’m just not going to excel. It’s a negative to an extent, but it isn’t a source of stress. Instead, today I want to talk about finding the root cause of your problems, the aspects of life that have a negative impact, that bring you down, that stack up over the course of a day, a week, a month, and gradually tug you down with them.

Step 1: Seeing the Smoke

To start, we need to make sure we notice the ‘Smoke’, the symptoms and the warning signs, that can lead us to the ‘Fire’, the cause. To do this, I make a mental note of all the things that bother me throughout my daily life. The same result could be achieved with a diary, or with a journal. Whilst I’d normally recommend keeping a Happiness Journal (or Jar!), that can serve as a reminder for all the good in your life, for the purpose of self-improvement it is useful to make note of areas, and times, that you feel anxiety or stress coming on.

Example 1: I feel stressed and anxious when I sit in traffic, well aware I’m about to be late. I do this almost every morning. The amount I feel fluctuates, depending on my mood, depending on how late I will be, and depending on what I have on that day.

Example 2: I feel stressed and anxious when Kirsty and I argue. The amount I feel fluctuates depending on the size of the argument, but it can leave me feeling shaken for the rest of the day or even impact a whole week.

In both my examples, I can see the ‘smoke’; I can see the building of anxiety. Whether it’s the stress of sitting in unmoving traffic, or the upset of a disappointed love one, these are two situations that really impact my life. Maybe, on a good day, I shake off the fact I’m late; I get into work, I laugh and joke, and I get on with my day. It’s fine really, I don’t notice it, I don’t think about it again… but it’s safe to say it does build up, it’s safe to say it does have an impact, albeit a small one. By combating the small impacts, we lessen the bigger ones by default.  

Step 2: Dousing the Flames.

The ‘Flames’ here are the causes for my anxiety; in example 1 it was because I was late. This daily stressor, which impacted me almost every day, was causing a knock on effect to the overall anxiety in my life. So, how do we combat this? How do we douse the flames? Well clearly it’s simple! I just stop being late. There, done. Bish, bash, and boom. Now watch as my anxiety and stress fade away…

Ok, my sarcasm aside, maybe Example 1, being late, is an easier fix than most. Where do we stand on Example 2 then? Example 2 was that I argue with Kirsty, my girlfriend, so the solution by this logic is just to stop arguing. As much as I’d like it to be that easy, it’s not. Suddenly we realise the flaw in this plan, we realise how ineffective it is to say “just fix things”.

I left Step 2 in to make a point; it’s not easy to just keep firefighting. I could take steps to ensure I’m no longer tardy, or to minimise the arguments Kirsty and I might have, and it might be effective in the moment, but this really requires Step 3, the magic step.

Step 3: The Source of the Fire

Like a fire department, we want to combat the flames before they spread and do irreparable damage. Also much like a fire department, we can try to work out where a fire started and avoid it. I firmly believe that many people stop before Step 3, that they go through life ‘firefighting’, which in this case I’m using to mean sorting problems when they arise rather than working to avoid them all together.

This is where things get really interesting, and this is where it would benefit from having a list of all of your stressors as, and when, they come about. The thing is, when you spell out all the things that are bothering you in life, no matter how long the list might look, many of these factors may stem from a common source; a gas leak or a lit candle (I’m determined to keep this analogy).

Whilst I only gave you two examples from my longer list, I can tell you now that many of my daily stressors stem from the same place. In Example 1, and numerous others, it’s a lack of organisation. This means I don’t get my stuff ready the night before, this means I don’t have a routine to stick to every morning, this means I don’t make enough time to get to work in the morning. It also means I don’t have my finances in order, and I haven’t paid that bill I’ve been putting off, it means I haven’t written a blog in advance, and I have to panic and stress to get one ready for my self-set deadline. By realising that much of my anxiety stems from the same key factor, disorganisation, I can start to work on that as a whole and hopefully avoid the stressors in future, rather than just trying to fight them when they arrive. There’s also the potential there that I’m stopping a problem I haven’t even noticed I’m having, something that’s stressing me out but I simply haven’t realised yet.

I believe it’s far more important that we combat these sources, because it’s here we can make the biggest improvements to our lives; it’s here we can minimise future stress and save ourselves from bouts of anxiety. That said, everyone is different, different tactics work for different people, and my method is certainly not a (fire)blanket intended to coat absolutely everyone’s lives. I just hope it helps in some way!

How do you combat your anxieties? Do you have some helpful tactics to share? Or maybe even just a story to tell? Let me know in the comments below!

My Happiness Jar: A Friday Feeling

Continuing my weekly theme of New Years, with Mondays resolutions, Thursdays 2016 Thoughts, I wanted to do a Friday Feeling in the same vein. Thursday highlighted what made 2016 a great year, it was full of positive reflections and helped me to really reminisce about the year gone by. I think, more often than not, that’s the problem; that reminiscing can just be so hard when you don’t take the time to keep reminders.

Whilst many of the more prominent moments of 2016 were easily brought to mind, without the use of Facebook, I would have left some of my memories behind. I don’t like the thought of that. I know we can’t remember everything, but I want to remember as much as possible.

Well, luckily, 2017 is going to be a bit different. Not only will I have this blog to look back on, but I’ve invested in a jar. A Happiness Jar, to be precise.

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A Happiness Jar slowly filling with memories!

Ok, so at the moment it’s just a jar… but you get the idea. Over the course of the year, Kirsty and I will slowly fill this jar will all the happy memories we make. Then, on the 1st of January 2018, we’ll open this up and read through everything that made 2017 a great year!

This was an idea brought to me through the powerful medium of Shelley Wilsons blog, and it instantly struck me as something I wanted to do. Every year, without fail, I try to start a journal. I am obsessed with starting brand new notebooks where I write down my happy things for the day… As with most things, I’ll miss a day, then a week, then a month, and then these poor little notebooks get left by the wayside. This jar will be different. It’s pride of place in my lounge, and Kirsty and I are already filling it up with different slips of coloured paper. It’ll look beautiful as it fills with a rainbow of different paper slips and, come January 1st 2018, we’ll have a big jar of memories to open and look back on.

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My new diary! “A Good Plan”

All that said, I can’t really give up my notebook addiction. I helped to fund the English translation of this fancy little notebook, “A Good Plan“, at the end of last year; you can find it on their site here. It’s a bit more in depth and reflective than my other journals, but the tagline for it really appealed to me: “Because the most important book in your life should be about your life”. Let’s see if I can keep it up!

How are you keeping track of the year to come? Relying on memory? On your blog? Or on a something entirely unique? Let me know in the comments below!