Stop Being a Writer in Hiding: Rediscovering Your Writer Self

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I am participating in the Writing Contest: You Are Enough, hosted by Positive Writer.

I am a writer. You are a writer. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be reading this.

And just like you, I sometimes suffer from torturous levels of self-doubt.  I haven’t published any books – yet. But I do have a couple of amateurish self-help books that were written years in the past and buried in the attic. I’ve also been writing a self-help blog for the past half a year. A blog I was putting off starting for the longest time because I was petrified of failure. 

After starting my blog, people contacted me to tell me how much they appreciated me sharing my stories and advice. It was only a handful of people, but let me tell you, when you have a message to get out and you’re being authentic, it’s the most freeing and amazing feeling in the world. 

No matter how rubbish you think you’re writing is, it will always entertain or help someone. And you can only get better, not worse.  Though if you never start, nobody can ever hope to be moved by your words or inspired by your inner world.

Looking back on my old work, I see grammatical horrors, and an inconsistent flow. It’s all too easy to listen to that voice from beyond the cobwebs of your mind that says ‘Give it up now. Throw away the pen. Nobody wants to read that hot garbage. Everyone will laugh at you’.  

That voice is meaningless. Poison. It will kill your dreams and stifle your voice if you give it so much as an inch. 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a writer. As a child I would sit at home writing stories in cheap spiral notebooks, or typing up a storm on the old-fashioned style typewriter which my parents bought me; you really had to hammer the keys to get the ink onto the paper. I used it so much that one Christmas, they surprised me with an electronic one and I was beside myself with excitement, my fingers soon dancing over the keys, page after page of prose whirring onto the paper. 

At school, I put my heart and soul into writing assignments, winning commendations for the stories I wrote in English. It was exhilarating to have my work read out to the whole class, and I felt proud. 

Then I got older. And the more of life’s traumas I experienced, the rarer and more incomplete my stories became. I became convinced that they weren’t good enough, even though my cousin would read them, transfixed, and beg me to write the next chapter. I never did. I would screw up entire pages of prose, rewrite it, then screw it up and rewrite it again, until the story got abandoned completely. 

Until recently, I would continue to write half stories, only to leave them behind until they become nothing more than a long-buried memory in Google Docs or on my hard drive. Over the years I’ve read dozens of books and magazines on writing. I formed a writing habit, but it still didn’t cure me of my endless need to perfect whatever I was working on. For me, perfectionism was another form of procrastination. As long as I was forever editing my work, I didn’t have to get it out there. 

Then something happened which drastically altered that self-defeating mindset that had poisoned my writing over the years. I rediscovered one of the horror stories I had written as a child.

The story was about an alien that came into my house one day and kidnapped my family, then I discovered the family dog could talk because she helped me to defeat the alien and rescue my family. It’s cringe-worthy and hilarious to read now, but ultimately, this story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. 

You see, back then, I was too young and innocent to let a lack of confidence hold back my imagination. My child-self simply put pen to paper and wrote whatever nonsense her brain had dreamed up, no matter how silly it sounded or how crazy the plot. 

It’s astounding and depressing how as I grew older, experiencing trauma and setbacks, my stories eroded alongside my self-confidence. 

For many years I’d been held back by my insecurities: I’ll never be any good, I’ll never write anything worthwhile, people will never care about what I write and will judge my work harshly. Yet nobody else had ever read this story. The cruellest judge of all was me.

Without a doubt I can tell you that your mind is the enemy of your pen. Whenever you put off another project, or another sentence, you are standing in your own way of success, letting doubt and fear gain the upper hand. 

But you’re worth more than that, aren’t you? You know you are. That’s why you have so many words racing around your mind. So many untold dreams. 

The words you keep locked in your mind are endless, just like your potential. 

Whenever I feel that self-doubt creeping back in, I still my mind and get back in touch with my inner child, locked up behind bars, still poised at the typewriter. And I start to write as if I were that fearless child again, simply getting anything and everything down on paper or my screen.

Just like I finally started my blog and gained several followers,  I brought down that old buried manuscript of the self-help book in the attic, and began to rewrite it with the knowledge and skills I’ve gained as a thirty-something writer. 

No longer am I a writer in hiding. 

Through getting back in touch with that eager and neglected inner-child who’s always wielding her pen and typewriter, never caring what others think, I’ve found that old buried confidence.

Because I am a writer.

So, what are you waiting for? Go unleash those ideas and share them with the world! Your words are worth it! 

The Lies You Must See Through to Reach True Happiness

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I used to think I wanted to be rich.

I pictured myself winning the lottery and living in a huge house, hanging out and partying with friends and family. 

There would be so much space that people would be conversing in every room, and there would be so much to do. Video games, sports, a massive selection of alcohol.

I imagined all the stuff I would have in my home: an arcade, a library, a bar, a cinema, a massive kitchen complete with a family chef. 

I’d finally have enough room for all the stuff I wanted and never have storage problems again. 

Nobody would be bored or want for anything, especially not me. And best of all,  I’d be able to enjoy it because I’d never have to work another day in my life. I’d be happy! 

Then I discovered minimalism. 

And I slowly came to realise that what I thought I wanted was a big fat lie. 

Lies that had been sold to me through the media and through every dopamine rush I experienced whenever I acquired something new. 

Despite having so many luxuries and so much stuff, I wasn’t happy.  

Back when I was a child I was spoiled. On Christmas and birthdays, presents would be piled to the rafters, and my parents bought me whatever I desired throughout the rest of the year. 

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The trouble was, I always wanted more, and that pattern continued into my adult life. I also had a real problem with letting go of things from my past. 

When I started minimising, I felt an amazing sense of freedom, but something else started to happen as well – I no longer desired the latest smartphone, or a hundred books, or a game room filled to the brim like the collectors I admired on Youtube. 

It’s also become virtually impossible to tell family and friends what I want for Christmas or my birthday because, truthfully, there’s very little I desire.

If you’d asked me that question two years before, I wanted so much that it was hard for me to choose what to ask for. The things I didn’t get, I could find in the January sales. 

But now I realise that I never needed a bigger house, or any of the other luxuries I craved. 

The more I’ve downsized my collections, the more I’ve realised I didn’t need a bigger house or more storage. A bigger house would just mean more maintenance and time wasted. And I’ve never been a party animal.

The reason I was so unhappy was because I wasn’t challenging myself. 

I was living in mediocrity, staying at the same level I always had, doing the same job I’d always done, and was content letting my husband take care of the important stuff. After all, I was looked after and fine, so why change anything?

I soon learned just how dangerous that mindset was. 

One day, he was driving us to work as usual, and we had a near miss with another car who pulled out on us from the left. As he swerved to avoid it, another car was coming at full speed from up ahead. I started screaming and my life flashed through my brain at a thousand miles an hour. 

Mainly all the stuff I hadn’t done. 

If my husband hadn’t had super-sonic reflexes that morning, we wouldn’t be here today and this blog never would’ve started. 

For the rest of the day, I felt shaky and couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen if I died without accomplishing what I wanted in life. I also came to the sickening conclusion that I’ve always been looked after, and if anything happened to him, I would be as helpless as a child. 

Life can be taken away in an instant. Dreams extinguished along with it. 

Minimalism has revealed that I don’t need stuff to make me happy. I need to be able to stand on my own two feet. 

I need to be fulfilled. I need to help others. I need to become a full-fledged author and a successful counsellor.  I need to make an impression on the world – not my stuff.

That’s why when my husband asked what I wanted for Christmas this year, I was delighted when he suggested that he pay some money towards my training rather than something else that will end up forgotten on a shelf.

I was also more than happy when, for my birthday, my mother paid for my hair to be done. She said she would rather get me something useful than something I would shove in a drawer. 

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After a year of feeling misunderstood as a minimalist, I can’t even begin to express how much that meant to me.

Now, I also want to say that it’s totally OK to enjoy giving gifts at Christmas, or to ask for a physical possession, as long as it’s something that’s well thought out, and will be loved for a long time, rather than something that will give a quick dopamine hit and end up in a charity shop by summer. 

What I want is to invest in my future so that I can be fulfilled and support myself and my family. I want to be of value to others and to enjoy myself in the process. 

Does that mean giving up every physical thing I enjoy? No. Of course not. And I’m not ungrateful when people do buy me things because that would make me into an asshat. Being ungrateful for how others choose to show their love is also a surefire way to end up miserable and frustrated.

What it does mean is being grateful for what I do have, and understanding that what I need for true happiness has always been right in front of me. It’s always been waiting for me to wake up and take action to get it. 

A torrent of constant advertising, comparing myself to others, and wanting what I saw on Youtube was blinding me to that truth.

With that in mind, I ask, are you living a life of blind consumerism? Are you surrounding yourself with stuff, thinking you’ll finally be happy if you unwrap that one thing you always wanted?

What’s your true happiness?

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How To Minimise the Past And Maximise the Future

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If I told you minimalism and self-growth is straight-forward and easy, I would be lying. 

Minimalism requires lots of hard decision-making, consistency, and dealing with memories both good and bad. 

Self-growth requires confronting and accepting hard truths about ourselves and our situations and learning to move forwards while becoming better people in the process. 

Because that’s what it all is. A process. A journey. And a bumpy one at that with twists, turns and long stretches of smoothness.  

I used to be what I call a tidy hoarder (although I didn’t realise I was a hoarder at the time). Candles, mugs, trinkets and figurines lined shelves and window sills while cupboards and drawers were bursting at the seams and collapsing under the weight. Boxes hid under my bed collecting dust and the top of my wardrobe towered with boxes, storage containers, and soft toys. 

My hoarding habits were a source of frequent arguments and discussions about my ‘trash’ in the home.

I kept all sorts. Masses of keyrings collected over the years, old party invitations, old school work, old defunct cables, those little badges you can get with rebellious statements on, old jewellery, old stationary, little notebooks and relics I’d got from cereal boxes as a kid (including a Rugrats flip book). 

I’d even kept a ring from when I was seven years old, simply because I’d worn it at primary school.

As a person I was angry, unfulfilled, lost, and confused, with severe identity issues which caused massive problems in my relationships. Until I discovered minimalism, I didn’t realise that the state of my stuff reflected the state of my mind, and my past. 

Just like with my drawers and cupboards, I kept parts of myself hidden away in dark dusty corners of my psyche, and every so often, bits would burst out and everyone around me would be left picking up the mess, only for it to end up back in the box it all burst from. 

I’d grown up with such a turbulent school life among other things, that by the time I got to college and made the life-long friends I have now, I’d become a master of wearing a mask of silliness and extreme cheer. I was so skilled at this it became a genuine part of who I am today. 

The first time I got confronted with my hoard was a wakeup call for me. I was renting a house with the man who is now my husband, when mum brought over all my old stuff from their attic. Bags and bags of stuff. Bin liners stretching with the weight of the memories inside them I’d carelessly stowed away. 

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At first, I just saw it as a monumental physical task I needed to work through. I couldn’t escape it because there was nowhere else for it to go. The attic was already rammed with game consoles, Christmas decorations, old memories, and other paraphernalia I’d just shoved up there when we moved in. 

But as I emptied the bags and started to work my way through them, I felt all kinds of emotions, even over innocent things like soft toys.

Sadness, grief, nostalgia, warmth… such a mixed bag of feelings all attached to these objects, many of which I’d owned since I was a child. There were several piles of old school work, even my old school planner, complete with sad, angry scribbles. 

To the people around me, that was all junk. Why hadn’t I put it in the bin ages ago? Why was I storing all that garbage? But to me, they were feelings and parts of me.

That school planner represented the part of me that expressed my feelings when nobody else would listen; proof that I experienced those feelings.

My school work was a trove of teacher praise, writing, and essays which I’d poured my soul into. I’d even kept hilarious pieces where it was clear I hadn’t understood the task or concept. 

I found gifts from people who’d long since left my life, and a tower of children’s books I used to treasure.

By the end of the day, I charity-shopped about 90% of the bag’s contents, and I felt so light that I could have floated a metre above the ground. It was as if those bags had never been stowed in the attic but been tied to me the whole time. 

I also felt emotionally drained. 

That was my first step into self-growth and into what would later reveal itself to be the path to minimalism, but it took a long time for the universe to make me and the concept cross paths. 

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Since discovering minimalism, I’ve not only unearthed many parts of myself that I didn’t realise existed, I’ve discovered and reignited my dreams, and have worked persistently to accept the past and make way for who I’m becoming.

Clearing the clutter in my life was the same as clearing out the drawers of my heart and the closets of my mind. It took a lot of soul searching, confronting parts of myself and re-discovering where I wanted to go.

I had spent a lifetime living in the past, believing that I was worthless, and that the feelings I had were nothing but a lie if I got rid of the stuff I associated with them.

Without going into too much detail, this is because I grew up unable to express my feelings. It was taboo. It was wrong. It was weird. So I ended up attaching them to tangible objects. 

When my heart got too heavy and full, it got emptied into cupboards and boxes, instead. 

Of course, minimalism isn’t a cure-all and I’ve had to do a great deal of self-growth. Self-growth is something which never stops and should never plateau because people are forever experiencing life and taking on new beliefs and values. 

For me, minimalism is the foundation to grow a new successful self. One not weighed down by stuff, the past, and outdated subconscious beliefs. 

It’s my hope to help you on your journey, too, whatever your values or your past may be. It’s deep, hard work, but you can get there.  

Remember, just as you don’t grow from toddler to adult in a day, you won’t change and grow your core values and beliefs overnight, either. 

Since we’re entering the festive season, let’s consider Scrooge from ‘A Christmas Carol’. He changes from a lifetime of being cruel, miserable, greedy and selfish, to jolly, charitable, fun, and caring. All in one night. 

While the story is great and has a powerful message, in reality, Scrooge would have taken years to change because his persona would result from various factors throughout his life; beliefs instilled into him by his parents, the people around him, his circumstances, and his environment. 

Every single person has their own story, background, and beliefs. You can’t change a lifetime of beliefs and behaviours overnight, no matter how much you want to. And while throwing them out with the trash is freeing, you still need to do the emotional work to prevent returning to old habits and circumstances. 

With consistent action, you can and will get to where you want to be!

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The Key to Staying Motivated and Finding Success

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“Get a move on!” my husband raged at the car in front. “You’re already halfway out so you may as well go the whole way!” He was complaining about a car to his left which had half pulled out into the road we were on, but then decided not to go any further.

And this is exactly what happens to so many of us chasing success. We want the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We want to go where the grass is greener. To join that exclusive party of awesomeness where people are living their dreams while living it up.

But as soon as things get challenging, we come to a stop or retreat altogether.

I know how great and how easy it is to start something feeling so energised and motivated that the people around you wonder why the hell you’re smiling so much. Whatever project you take on, whether it’s a business idea, a book, or a habit you want to change, starts off easy. It’s new and exciting.

The real challenge is staying committed and keeping that level of motivation, even when the drive has deserted you. Because there will be so many days you want to do anything but what you know you should be doing.

You’ll have a bad day at work, cure it with a Netflix or gaming binge, and miss out on writing the five hundred words you intended for your book.

There will be days where life’s responsibilities have buried you, and all you can think of is that enticing bottle of wine you were trying to quit. 

Or perhaps your kids have worn down the last thread of your patience and that course you started has suddenly fallen to the bottom of your priority list.

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You think: I’ll write the chapter tomorrow. I’ll just study an extra two hours next week. I’ll go to the gym again when things have calmed down. I know I was trying to quit, but I’ve worked so hard and surely one drink/donut won’t hurt.

But tomorrow never comes.  Tomorrow becomes the dreaded ‘I’ll get to it one day’. Things never quite calm down enough. Before you know it, you’re back to before you even started. What an exhausting cycle!

To achieve anything in life, you can’t just go at it with a hammer one day and a plastic sword the next. You need to stay consistent. It helps if you have a strong ‘why’. Why is it you want to become a world-class football player, a prolific author, or a famous chef? Why is it you want to declutter your home? Why are you trying to quit drinking? Why are you trying to lose weight?

Once you know your reasons, you’ll want to identify the true culprit behind the never-ending cycle of starting, stopping, and retreating. Quite often, if you look deep enough, you’ll find that it wasn’t your boss, your kids or your house chores that was the problem, but fear.

And fear is a master of disguise, often masquerading as busyness or distraction.

Becoming successful with anything takes dedication, consistent hard work, and winning habits, and even then, you might fail and look stupid.  It’s so much safer and easier to hit snooze one more time on the alarm clock when you could be learning a new skill, or to binge Netflix with pizza when you could be breaking a sweat and losing the pounds you wanted. 

For years, my whole life was governed by fear and inaction – and those two things got together, had a party, got wild, and smashed my vision. I stayed stagnant for a whole decade, dreaming without doing.

It took years to pick the pieces back up and arrange them into something new. Years to change my mindset and transform a lifetime of negative beliefs and self-defeating attitudes.

But fear hates it when you take action, and the more you act, the easier it will become. Fear’s influence weakens and it will sit in the corner of that party, as soon as you unleash your power and take control of the music.

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You can’t half-ass any of this. Like the car at the start of this post, you’re either in or you’re out.

Arnold Schwarzenegger said, in his book ‘Total Recall’, “I was only wild when I was wild. When it was time to train, I never missed a session.”  In other words, his free time was scheduled and not an endless, all-consuming loop. He took himself seriously and went for his dreams at a blistering speed, never dropping his vision.  To him, time was treated as the precious and limited thing that it is.

I’m going to tell you one more crucial thing about keeping your motivation. The despair of staying where you are has to be torturous compared to the initial pain of committing yourself.

Staying in your 9-5 job must be infinitely more painful than the discomfort you would feel from getting up at 5am every morning to study for a new career. 

Putting on five more pounds from eating pizza and donuts must be a hundred times more agonising compared to the initial pain of changing your diet.

You need to decide that enough is enough. You can’t and won’t tolerate more of the same.

Before I became a minimalist, I was fed up of my drawers collapsing with the weight of the junk I kept. I couldn’t stand the organised chaos I had created for myself over the years.

And after a decade of flat-lining in my current career and lifestyle (despite many opportunities for growth) I decided to stop dreaming and take a big leap. I became a student again in order to change my direction and my life, this time, studying something I am passionate about instead of what I thought would be easy.

I take online courses and study almost every day. I read every day. I write every day. Because I am dedicated, because it’s exciting, because I’m obsessed, and because just one more year of waking up to the same old me is, quite frankly, unthinkable.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that dreams and goals can change and that’s completely normal. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, it just means you’re a living, breathing, human.

Some people (like me) have always known what they wanted to do, but also stumble upon something else along the way which ignites their soul. That’s also completely normal.

Everyone has their own definition of success so just go for whatever your heart tells you to do, and if you haven’t found your calling yet, don’t worry. Just take the time to be still, carry on living, try new things, and one day you will find it.

Once you find it, don’t let go. Don’t half-ass it. You have endless potential! The question is, are you in or out?

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Off the Beaten Path

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This week, I’m talking about daring to be different and letting go of the fear that stops so many of us from reaching our potential. I will refer to video games again because they’ve taught me some valuable lessons, so if you’re not a gamer, bear with me – what I’ve learned could help you, too. 

I’ve been playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; a massive game about exploration. It’s been in my backlog for years, mainly because I couldn’t stand that you can go wherever you want in any order, and there’s no real structure on how you do things. Just as there are so many ways to progress, there’s so many ways to fail. 

I feared playing it. What if I go wrong? What if I fail? What if I get stuck? How will I know what to do next? Will I have wasted my time? 

It’s a hugely limiting mindset that’s not just stopped me from experiencing  award-winning video games, but living life to the fullest.

Anyway, I decided to give the game another try, and overcome this way of thinking. 

Surprisingly, I’ve found myself addicted (not unhealthily) and actively exploring the environment, even when the main quest is blinking on the humongous map. There’s always something to see, and always a reward or two for exploring an area.

There were times I’ve felt overwhelmed, but I kept playing anyway, determined to see all it has to offer. And I made tonnes of progress. That gave me the confidence to try another exploration type game called Hollow Knight. It’s popular with gamers, but I’ve shied away from it in the past because of the game not holding your hand and telling you where to go next. 

“Let go of that mindset and just explore,” my husband said when I started. And I did. I went against everything inside me that was screaming with the anxiety of not being guided down a specific path, and before I knew it, I was immersed and finding something new with every direction I went. 

Yes, I got my ass handed to me several times, but it was such an enjoyable experience that I found myself trying again and again until I beat certain enemies. 

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I stopped worrying about whether I was going in the right direction and started wondering what I would find in the next area. I was enjoying myself without being directed. 

What’s your enemy in life? Fear? Procrastination? Being a master of weaving excuse stories rather than the story you want to tell? Go ahead and beat it! There’s joy and excitement on the other side. 

In real life, I’ve always struggled and become very anxious when there’s no clear path or no guidance saying “do this/go here next.” Playing video games that took me out of that comfort zone has been a big stepping stone for me. 

Overcoming that anxiety and learning to guide myself is vital because I’m on the path to becoming a counsellor and want to own my own practice in the future. I want to feel more relaxed and confident in situations where nothing is certain. 

Because life isn’t certain. 

I’m not saying that you should play video games if you want to change your mindset, I’m saying that taking action and facing your fears has more power than you could imagine. 

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Since playing those games and fighting through that mindset,  I’ve also had a revelation about my writing. A lot of the writers block I get is down to feeling creatively blocked because with writing there are no rules per se. 

Just like with Hollow Knight, and Breath of the Wild, it’s about exploring and finding what works. It’s about letting go of fear of the unknown and turning it into excitement and curiosity. It’s about exploring off the beaten path. Trying something different. 

As Albert Einstein once said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 

It’s like boarding a plane to America, even though you’re trying to get to Japan.

Straying from the beaten path is crucial if you want to escape mediocrity and discover your true potential, yet so many of us stay stuck in jobs we hate, in toxic relationships, and with habits that no longer serve us. 

Most of society would have you believe that life is all about survival. Keeping your head down and not taking any risks. After all, staying on the well-worn path is ‘safe’. It’s far less scary than going off to explore that sparkling river of opportunity in the distance. 

It’s also the path to forgotten and lost dreams. Staying on that path can lead to you forgetting who you are, what you have to offer to the world, and what you truly find fulfillment in. By staying on the linear, worn path, you don’t get to see the sparkling river, the lush forest, or find the hidden treasure. 

So, don’t hesitate. Let go of your fear. Be adventurous. Leave the beaten path and follow the river instead. Who knows where it could take you? 

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I Changed My Mindset and Started Living – So Can You!

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This week, I finally completed a videogame I’ve had for years called Alien Isolation. For years I would make a certain amount of progress, only to get stuck, scared out of my wits, and quit.

It’s only in the past few months I plucked up the courage to restart it after a friend said, “don’t let your fears rule you”. I realise how cheesy that sounds, but that’s exactly what I was doing. I was acting the same way I used to in real life.

In the end, I pushed through that fear, and my failures when the alien killed me again and again. And in doing so, I finally reached the end credits. I was successful.

But most people don’t keep on pushing through when they fail. Like I once did with Alien Isolation, they give up at the first few hurdles. So many people stay stagnant.

They won’t go for that career opportunity, or start a new business, or ask that guy/girl out, or attempt to learn a new skill, or travel somewhere new, or stand up for their beliefs.

Life is tedious but safe. Unfulfilling yet secure.

At work I stayed in the same old position for ten years, despite many opportunities for growth. Why? Because I was too terrified of failure to try anything else. My life was on autopilot. Go to work, get paid, buy new shiny stuff to feel more alive, dream of winning the lottery, dream of writing, rinse and repeat.

Because of turbulence in my life as a young adult, I felt that I should be grateful for even having a job. My mother often drilled the last part into me.

The message was clear: Stay where you are. Don’t try anything else. Don’t push your luck. Don’t even think about it.

And I didn’t. I fought the symptoms of undiagnosed chronic illness, and when I finally got diagnosed, I thought, This is it. My cards have been dealt. Now I need to fight to keep going, to keep my job. It was the first job which I genuinely loved (and still do).

Supporting students was highly rewarding, and I grew over the years. I became a better TA, better able to build relationships, gained more empathy than ever before, and a wider view of the world.

But there came a point where I started longing for more. Dreaming about creating content that would help and inspire adults. Fantasising about becoming an author. About helping people with their life problems. And I stayed like that for many more years.

Just dreaming and wishing.

Whenever I saw somebody else become successful, it was like looking through a telescope from across a vast, raging ocean. Success was something that only happened to gifted people. Whenever students left the school with their grades and a blank slate, I longed to go back to the past.

If only I had chosen the right courses (journalism or creative writing). If only I hadn’t been so scared to pursue what I really wanted. If only I didn’t have a chronic illness.

All of that was faulty thinking based on limiting beliefs I had at the time: That I was now too old to chase my dream. That I was a crap writer and had nothing worthwhile to say. That I was dumb and didn’t deserve better.

The truth is, if I had made different choices, and if I was free of illness, I wouldn’t have learned the things I have. I wouldn’t have met my husband, and most likely, would be a completely different person. I wouldn’t be writing my first book which is all about coping with chronic illness, and I probably wouldn’t have discovered minimalism and grown as a person, so I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at in life, or how old you are, you choose how you play the cards you have been dealt in life. You choose if to keep playing or surrender your hand.

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It’s only over the past year I’ve wrestled back control of the steering wheel and have a clear aim. Minimalism helped clear my vision. And once I had a clear view of what I wanted and how I was going to get there, I just went for it.

I made this blog and carried on writing even when the writing gremlin told me I was crap. I applied for a BACP counselling course, even though the sneering voice of self-doubt piped up, Pfft. You? You’ve spent years on the wrong path. What makes you think you can help others to find theirs?

I could have listened to that voice and not applied for the course. But I remembered that it was because I had gone down the ‘wrong’ path that I came to the revelation I did.

It’s the people I met along the way. The lessons I’ve learned by teaching others, and by overcoming challenges in my relationships. Relentless studying and reading every book on success and communication I could get my hands on.

Slowly but surely, as I kept reading, applying what I learned, and clearing more clutter from my home, my old limiting beliefs fell away.

I had proved that I could become minimalist, even though I was a hoarder for most of my life. Why couldn’t I work for myself when there are people who have overcome massive adversity and still achieved their dream?

Reading about some of these people, I realised there was always a common thread. They all had a clear vision of what they wanted. And they all worked their asses off to get there. They all kept pulling themselves out of the quicksand. They stopped drowning and kept kicking their legs until they started swimming.

It turns out that some of the world’s most successful people had also been told they would get nowhere in life. Often by teachers, other authority figures, and by the attitudes of the people they were surrounded by at the time.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s parents noticed his affinity to physical labour and suggested that he could become a furniture maker, or a mechanic. But what he wanted was to become a famous body-builder. His friends at school thought he was weird for his strong desire to go to America, because he talked about it all the time.

Do you think any of that stopped him?

Can you imagine if Arnold had played it safe, instead? If he had only done what others expected him to do?

One of my favourite authors, Bryan Hutchinson, struggled throughout his education, and was told he would never be a writer. He was even humiliated in front of a whole class once by a tutor who didn’t believe in his abilities. Eventually, he pushed through his limiting self-beliefs and the remarks from his past. Now he owns a successful blog and has published several books.

Once you start believing, and you put in the hard work, the life you envisioned materialises bit by bit, like the sun after a heavy storm.

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I decided I was never again going to let myself be told that my dreams were ‘unrealistic’, or that I was being ‘ungrateful’. Of course, I’m grateful. Gratitude is important. The problem was, I took being grateful as meaning to always stick with what you have.

I never took risks because ‘realistically’ I could fail and look like a fool. I could see people saying “told you so,” with a satisfied smirk. I could see readers making fun of my writing. But being realistic and safe was making me miserable and unfulfilled.

Not too long ago, I put all talented people, or people in a higher position than me, on a pedestal. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I was so fascinated by these people that I saw them like a celebrity. In my eyes, I saw a mystical human before me and felt privileged just to be around them.

You can imagine how I saw myself.

I didn’t see the seeds they had planted in the past. All the years of grafting and climbing the ladder, while feeling just as insecure as most other people.

After chatting with these people for a while, I started to notice how different their attitude was. They didn’t complain or hang around in cliques. But they avoided negative people and meaningless tasks as sure as a cat avoids showers.

I was one of those negative people, and I didn’t even realise it. So it was no wonder these more successful people didn’t talk to me for too long.

You attract who you are.

You’ll notice that gossipers tend to hang around and attract other gossips, that toxic people are never far apart. But the successful ones are well out of the way, hanging with positive people and doing whatever it takes to live the life they want.

These people still treat everyone with respect, even if they’d rather be elsewhere in that moment. They understand the importance of positive relationships, and that what they say reflects who they are or who they are becoming.

I’m not talking about people who are in a successful position, but who then abuse that power to make others feel small. You could argue that they’re not successful because their power plays come from a place of deep insecurity and fear. They haven’t mastered their fears and perceived shortcomings, so project them onto others.

Truly successful people are living the life that they want to live, never stop growing, are humble, and treat everyone with respect. They aren’t perfect, because nobody is perfect. But they know that the best way to live a sub-par life is to bring others down, brag about their life, and stop learning once they’ve reached a certain point.

Notice how I never said that successful people are all walking around with high-paying jobs and a briefcase? That’s because it’s nothing but a stereotype. An idea sold to you via the media, through marketing, and by the rest of society.

Success isn’t about having a certain job and wearing a custom-fit suit. It isn’t the amount of stuff you own, or the amount of money you have in the bank. It isn’t the amount of friends you have or the sexual conquests you’ve had.

In fact, there are some obscenely rich and popular people out there who are drowning in misery and can’t quite figure out why.

Success is living the lifestyle you want to live, with the job you want, with quality friends, and continuing to grow as a person.

If happiness, to you, is working a 9-5 while voluntarily working at homeless shelters, and that’s what you do with your life, you’ve been successful.

If it’s about having a happy marriage, and you have many joyful married years behind you, you’ve been successful.

If you’re a stay-at-home parent who values raising children, and you have happy kids, you’ve been successful.

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Be careful not to mix happiness up with mediocrity- that is staying safe and settling for less than your potential.

It’s important to know that there are many areas of success which add up to a whole: job, marital, friendship, financial, parental, spiritual…

And you can be successful in as many areas as you want. Not perfect. Successful.

Owning a big house just because you can is meaningless. Owning the latest gadgets wears off fast. Wearing a suit to work every day and earning hundreds of thousands a year is meaningless if you’ve got no plan but to chase more.

People who tie happiness to possessions, or success to a suit and briefcase are destined to become mere shells of themselves.

Some people get caught in the trap of waiting to become a certain way before they go after what they want. But they forget one important thing: It’s our experiences that help shape who we are and how we think.

Without failing, you can’t grow. You can’t know what you need to do to improve, to move further along.

Yes, hone a positive growth mindset. But don’t wait for perfect. Because perfect never comes, and success never comes to those who sit and wait.

Always remember your values. Don’t stray from them. And value yourself highly.

You are worth it!

Photo by Svyatoslav Romanov on Unsplash