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

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Julius Drost on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Katrina on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Samuel Clara on Unsplash


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

There’s Always More

Sometimes when we think about improving our lives, it’s ridiculously easy to fall into a trap of consumerism. This is because no matter what walk of life you come from, or what profession you’re in, there’s always a product out there to ‘perfect’ your life and make you into the person you’ve always dreamed of. There’s always one more thing you’re sure will make you happy this time around.

Today, there’s a never-ending choice of products to make you more sexy, more elegant, more productive. A better parent, a better partner, a better gym goer. Famous, successful, irresistible.

If you’re a new parent, you might convince yourself you need the perfect diaper bag, perfect bottle set or perfect nappy dispenser.

If you struggle to get your life in order, there’s a huge variety of attractive planners which claim they’ll make you into a master of productivity and success.

If you’re a writer, then maybe that perfect pen, notebook, laptop, or software will help you write that book that’s been on the backburner.

If you’re single and looking, there’s a perfume or cologne out there which will draw every male or female within a ten-mile radius.

Once you’re ensnared in this trap, it’s hard to get out of because there’s always just one more thing you can add that will surely make your life complete. But you and I both know, that ‘satisfied’ feeling is as fleeting as the time it took you to take the item to the checkout or click it into your basket.

It’s not long before you’re looking for the perfect desk for that perfect notebook , or the next perfect laptop, because the other one you bought didn’t help you to start that book, afterall.

The cycle continues.

And it will continue until you realise that you already have everything you need – and it isn’t fancy software and material products.

You don’t become a better writer by buying a better laptop. No fancy software, hardware, notebook or pen will get your words down for you, or make your ideas better. Only the act of writing will do that.

You don’t become a better parent by buying every toy in the bestsellers list, the best diaper bag or the trendiest pushchair. You do that by offering unconditional love, security, and a healthy environment for them to learn and grow.

You don’t become a better teacher by buying a bigger desk, you do that by consistently teaching quality content and connecting with individual students.

Admittedly, I’m a sucker for great writing software, beautiful planners, and fun toys for my son. But none of those things get me further ahead in life, and none of it adds to the relationship between me and my son. Only spending time can do that.

It’s my consistent actions that make me into a better person than yesterday, not stuff, and it’ll be your consistent actions that transform you into the person you want to become.

Once you understand and apply this concept to your own situations, your life satisfaction will skyrocket. And if you constantly act towards the life that you envision, you’ll see progress every single day, no matter how small.

Less stuff, more action!

The Trap of Perfection

I’m getting married in a couple of weeks. I’d just had a long day of shopping with my mum, looking for my son’s page boy shoes and preparing for perfection on the big day. I felt pretty good. I had the perfect table decor, the perfect hanging heart, and ordered the perfect shoes for my son. But, even after all that, I felt very upset after my chosen wedding hair got bad reception from family.

With just two weeks to go and feeling hopeless and ugly, I felt a deep sense of dissatisfaction, and suddenly found myself questioning all of my choices. Perhaps the cute jars I had ordered for my flowers were too small. If only I’d ordered bigger. I should have paid for welcome drinks, even though it was going to cost hundreds of pounds extra.


Photo is my own

My wedding wasn’t going to be perfect and neither was I.

That evening, as I sat downstairs with my husband-to-be, thinking about what else I could buy, and what else I could do to perfect myself on my wedding, a TED talk came up on Youtube and started playing in the background. For those of you who aren’t sure what a TED talk is, it is a inspirational talk usually done by successful people, or people who have an important story to tell others.

This TED talk re-opened my eyes to my perceived ‘problems’. It was as if it was put there for me to see, as if some other force was trying to give me a good shake and wake me up.

In it, a guy was telling his story about his battle with throat cancer, and his ailing relationship with his wife and daughter. All this guy could only think about was how awful his situation was and how his success had been jeopardised. He was angry and bitter.

One day, he met a homeless guy, who he originally hated looking at because he thought ‘how dare he, he should get a job’.This homeless guy turned out to be his mentor, or perhaps, his guardian angel in disguise, because he ended up teaching him a valuable lesson about what life is really about and how he was treating others. At the same time in his life, a little girl who was being treated with chemo in the same hospital as him, taught him about his flawed outlook on life.

After those very sad, touching and inspiring life lessons from the most unexpected sources, he was a changed man. The whole way through this TED talk, I felt a lump in my throat, and realised I had been straying far off the path that minimalism was teaching me about.

Photo by Franz Harvin Aceituna on Unsplash

Life’s not about money, fame, or perfection, but about being there for others, giving people the time of day, and not judging people on first sight.

Here I was getting upset about my wedding hair, and acting as if it was the most terrible thing in the world- and it really isn’t. It doesn’t even register on the scale of ‘problem’. It is something I will be throwing more money at to fix, for a single day,  to look perfect in front of dozens of others and my husband-to-be. Yet just doors down from where I am getting wed, and going to be eating like royalty, sleeping in crisp sheets and bathing in a hot tub, there are homeless people in filthy clothes who nobody stops to help.

The real deal in life is to help others, to have great relationships and to get over our egos. Not to be concerned with status or pursue endless material gains.

I realised, when I was listening to that man, that even though I am minimalist and talk about helping others, I had the same mindset as he did, “I will earn more than them one day and then I will give them the excess’. But what they also need is human connection and to be shown humanity. They need time from others.

We run away and aim to be as far away from that situation as possible, even though the pursuit of fame, money, and stuff is empty. At the end of the day, stuff is meaningless, and beauty comes from within, not from the most perfect hairdo or most porcelain skin.  

It’s frighteningly easy to sleepwalk through life with this blindfold on, listening to the expectations and the imaginary chatter of others, getting pulled downstream with the rest of the fish and forgetting what’s important.

Weddings can quickly become about beauty and perfection instead of the main reason for getting married in the first place, just like life can become about obtaining shinier and shinier stuff instead focusing on the people around us.  

I was forgetting that the most important thing would be waiting for me at the end of the aisle, and not on a store shelf or in bridal hair magazines. The most important thing for my wedding day will be the person I am marrying, and the journey we will share together.

Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash

For those of you who are interested, here’s the link to the TED talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g72SmMdFBpk