Super Juice Me

This 28 day health kick all started a couple of days ago when I watched a documentary film called Super Juice Me. It was made by a guy called Jason Vale, who is mad about juicing and has written loads of really great books on the subject. I first met Jason when I was about 21, at a Tony Robbins event in London – he’d just published his first juicing book, which I bought, devoured (not literally), and took instantly to heart. I started juicing every day, exercising in the mornings, and eating far more lettuce than is really normal. When I look back on it, I don’t remember it being ‘difficult’, like being on a diet – in fact I remember looking in the mirror one day and wondering where all my fat rolls had gone. I really wasn’t thinking about it like a diet, or trying to lose weight, it was a genuine lifestyle change, and I really enjoyed feeling healthy.

Thirteen (ouch) years later, life has very much got in the way, and I am unhealthy, unfit, and significantly overweight. I have made half-hearted attempts to get healthy again over the years, which have all worked to some extent, but I’ve never kept them up for long. I need to get in to the mindset that worked for me before, and make a complete lifestyle change; but with an extra 13 years of emotional baggage (don’t your 20s seem brilliant when you’re looking back from your 30s!) it’s not going to be as easy as it was the first time. (And I’ve got a cold. Sniff.)

In order to succeed in this I need to be really clear on why I’m doing it, and where my motivation comes from, and in order to do THAT, I’ve decided that the first thing I need to do is face up to all the **** from the last thirteen years. It’s not that the **** is the reason I’ve not been fit and healthy – obviously it’s perfectly possible to go through tough times in life and still eat apples and exercise. However coping with stress has never been a strong point of mine, and emotional eating has been a huge part of my problem, as it is for so many people. If I’m not going to feed the emotions with chocolate, then I need to find some other way of dealing with them – and that means I have to get them out in the open. I’m going to try not to do this like a list of excuses, or a sob story, and many apologies if you find the lifestory stuff boring (feel free to skip to the end) but if I can be honest and face up to my **** and in doing so inspire someone else to face up to theirs, then it will have all been worth it!

Rewind thirteen years: I found my final year at university really hard. Looking back, I was suffering from depression, although I didn’t realise it at the time. I do remember going to see the doctor once, and finding it impossible to ask for help – breaking down in tears as soon as I left the surgery. I used junk food to get me through my coursework, sugar to keep me awake long enough to get essays finished, and then more chocolate as a reward when they were written.

After leaving uni I entered a relationship with a guy who I ended up marrying. He was an avid meat-eater and vegetable-avoider, and one of those types who can eat what they like without putting on weight, so that’s what we pretty much did. After a couple of years his dad fell ill with cancer, and died just before we got married; and shortly after the wedding we found out that his mum also had cancer. As it turned out, the relationship wasn’t a particularly good one and we probably shouldn’t have got married in the first place – but when you are dealing with something like terminal illness everything else goes out of the window, and you cling to whatever to need to get you through.

We decided to start a family straight away, and I fell pregnant with our daughter about a month after we were married. Six weeks in, I started throwing up, and got so ill that I stopped work from about 9 weeks pregnant. I lost over a stone during my first trimester (throwing up ten times a day will do that to you, but I don’t recommend it as a weight loss strategy) and by half way through my second trimester my midwife was urging me to eat whatever I liked just so that I had something inside me. It did eventually subside, by which time my pelvis had decided that it wasn’t going to play ball any more, and I developed what was then called SPD. I had such severe pain in my pelvis and back that I was on crutches for over six months, and could barely move without being in agony. This has been a big thing for me in terms of exercising – it’s not like I was superfit before, but during that six month period I entirely retrained my body to move as little as possible in order to avoid intense pain, and breaking down that programming has been (and still is) a real challenge. It’s nearly eight years since my SPD started and in that time I’m yet to have a whole day where I don’t experience any pain at all. My birth experience was awful and left me with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, for which I had counselling, and eventually hypnotherapy. After that came the post-natal depression (naturally); I struggled to go back to work as a teacher and had to leave my job and find another one. My marriage unravelled, and I was a single working mum with an 18 month old daughter, fighting depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

Looking back over all of this, I think it wasn’t so much the stuff that happened (although obviously it wasn’t that nice), but the way I was dealing with it that was the biggest problem. I was in complete denial about my depression, and even when I was actually taking antidepressants I was secretly resenting every second of it, and eventually just stopped taking them, against my doctor’s recommendation.

So far this has taken us up to about six years ago; fast forward through another disastrous relationship with an extremely controlling man (who incidentally was a very fussy eater.. I ate a lot of pizza and KFC during that year), leaving my job to go fully self-employed, and post-birth problems which led me to have an operation to remove the lining of my womb. I was suffering from severe anxiety and depression at the time (and as usual refusing to take medication for it), and was not in any state to deal with the emotional repercussions of this decision, which effectively meant I wasn’t going to be able to have any more biological children. Cognitively, I was fine with it – after going through what I did in pregnancy I knew I didn’t want to do that again! – but every month when my hormones woke up I would re-live the loss, and the guilt.

Three years ago, I met the wonderful man who is now my husband (hurrah!). One morning a couple of months before we got married I woke up covered in blood, and we discovered that the lining of my womb had grown back enough that I’d got pregnant, and then miscarried. (Funnily enough, during that time I’d also done a juice detox but felt so awful the whole time that I gave up.) Cue depression, stress, grief, counselling, antidepressants (I actually took them this time), deciding that we weren’t going to try for a baby as it was too risky and the chances are I would miscarry again… and then I got pregnant again… and miscarried again. Christmas morning 2013 I had the phone call from the hospital to say my blood tests confirmed the pregnancy had failed; Boxing Day we went out with some friends as usual, and the day after that I went in to hospital for the surgery to remove the failed pregnancy. We then decided (us and my doctor) that the safest thing for me was to have a sterilisation, and avoid the whole pregnancy thing altogether – that was in Feb 2014. I’d just got back in to going to the gym, and had thought (naively) that I’d just bounce back and it would all be fine, but it then took me 6 months to properly get over the surgery.

Boxing Day 2014 I spent crying like I have never cried before.

I don’t quite know why it all hit me then, but it was like nothing I’d ever experienced. Everything that I had been pushing down, refusing to acknowledge, ignoring, it just all came flooding out in one go. I was afraid it wasn’t going to stop – and I was afraid that it would stop before it was finished, and all of that would go back inside me and I’d never be able to get it out again.

Anyway… (slightly embarrassed now). That brings us up to date. I know I’ve skipped over a lot of heavy stuff very quickly, and maybe I’ll post about the miscarriages and depression in more detail another time – today I just want to bring you up to speed, and talk about moving forward. It’s not been easy to sit and go over all of that again, but one thing it has done is made me realise I shouldn’t beat myself up too much for being overweight – just getting myself (and my daughter) through all of that in one piece is quite an achievement!

So where does my juicing motivation come in to all of this? I think after my big Boxing Day cry I just feel ready to start caring for myself again. I have spent too long just doing whatever I need in order to get through, and to a certain extent perhaps even feeling like I didn’t deserve to be cared for, loved, and nourished. I can’t believe I’m about to write this as it sounds unbelievably corny, but this 28 days is genuinely a gift that I can give to myself – of proper nourishment, health, and a kick-start to a lifestyle change. I’m starting to feel like I probably deserve it.

Cat x

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New Year, new you, and all that…

I don’t know who came up with the idea of starting afresh in January, as it seems like a crazy idea to me. It’s so cold and miserable, and heaving yourself back in to normal life after the Christmas break is hard enough already without trying to keep up a dozen New Year’s Resolutions as well. Bah humbug (if that’s still a thing once Christmas is over).

The trouble with a lot of goal setting (whether it’s New Year related or just a mini resolution all for yourself) is that it’s not specific enough. You can say something like “This year I’m going to eat more healthily” but what does that actually MEAN? If you normally get through twelve bars of chocolate a week and cut down to eleven, you are technically keeping to your resolution even though you are not eating healthily by any stretch of the imagination.

Some people might set a goal of eating more healthily, cut out one chocolate bar a week and feel that they have achieved what they wanted, or at least made a start. Others might make exactly the same resolution, reach exactly the same point, and feel like they’ve failed. If you’re not specific enough with what you’re aiming for not only will the goal be harder to achieve (if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, how will you know when you get there?) but it may stop you from noticing and celebrating the small steps along the way. Cutting out that one bar of chocolate may be a fairly small thing but it’s a step in the right direction, and deserves to be acknowledged as such.

After all my griping about resolutions, it may surprise you to learn that I’m doing a *thing* this January (the timing is merely coincidental, I can assure you!). I’m joining in the World’s Biggest Juice Detox and going completely juicy for 28 days. Yes, that’s right – for the next 28 days I will be living entirely off freshly made juices and smoothies. It’s going to be a challenge (I’ve done 7 days before and that was bad enough) and I’m going to be recording my progress on this blog.

For me, one of the most important things heading in to a challenge like this is being really clear on WHY I’m doing it, why it’s important, and why I’m not going to give up – there are going to be tough moments over the next four weeks and I’m going to need to revisit this over and over again to keep myself focused. I’ve already waffled enough in this post, but if you’re interested I’ll share my story in the next post, and my motivations for doing this, and doing it right now.

If you’re reading this and you’re also on the detox – good luck! Comment below to let me know how you’re getting on 🙂

Cat x

Three steps to combat stress

There are lots and lots of good reasons to try to reduce the stress in your life. However, if you’re like me, and no matter how hard you try to find time for aromatherapy baths and meditation, sometimes it’s just not enough!

I found myself getting pretty stressed out today – it was one of those days I could literally feel it creeping in to my body; a sickly feeling in my stomach… a gradually spreading headache… I decided that today would be the day I would come up with my stress-busting routine(!) so that on days like this I could spring it in to action and return myself to a zen-like state of calm.

Here’s what I came up with…

1. Breathe

Sounds a bit obvious I know, but when we’re stressed we tense up without even realising it, and a good deep breath will start to relax your body as well as getting more oxygen pumping round it. Close your eyes if you need to; don’t worry if the niggling voices in your head are still going, this isn’t a meditation – just breathe.

One of the best things I learnt from attending a Tony Robbins seminar is how you can use your body to trick the mind into thinking something different: sometimes it’s known as ‘fake it til you make it’! If you don’t feel confident, but *act* as if you are, you will eventually start to feel it. Similarly, if you just take a few deep breaths – acting as though you are in a relaxed and calm state – your body will begin to physically relax, and you will begin to feel calmer.

2. Identify the root cause of the stress

Often when we’re stressed we get completely overwhelmed and it can be hard to pinpoint the root cause of it. I’ve lost count of the number of times my husband has asked me what’s wrong only to have me scream “EVERYTHING!” at him!

But let’s try and dig down a little deeper here – yes, you may be overworked, yes your kids may be demanding, and your dog has just been sick on the antique rug (I don’t have a dog or an antique rug, but I imagine this is the most likely way those two items would interact together), but I would bet any money that I could give you the exact same problem on a different day and you would take it in your stride. So what *exactly* is it that’s making you stressed today? Do you feel like you have no control over your workload? Are you trying to split your time between work and kids? Do you feel like other people are making so many demands on your time you don’t have any left for yourself? Are you feeling ill? Are you worried about something else entirely? Do you feel like you’re not coping?

Be really honest with yourself here, or this bit isn’t going to work. It is not the *thing* that is stressing you out, it is your reaction to the thing. For example – I have a huge pile of un-filed paperwork on my desk, which I merrily walk past every day without a care in the world. However, when I want to find the paper part of my driving license, that pile suddenly becomes a source of quite a lot of stress! It’s a silly little example, but it’s important to recognise that it’s your reaction to the situation that is important here, not the situation itself.

3. Decide on your response

You can choose your response to this situation.

This is going to be different for everyone, depending on your source of stress, so I’ll talk you through my example.

One of my particular triggers is having a lot of different demands on my time, and feeling overwhelmed by them. When I looked closely at this, I realised that intellectually I know that I can do everything that is being asked of me, so that isn’t actually what stresses me out – the deep down root cause is feeling like other people are controlling how I spend my time.

On the surface, I had assumed that I felt stressed because I didn’t think I was good enough, or couldn’t cope with all the things I had to do. However, digging down I realised that wasn’t the problem at all, and once I had found the root cause of the problem, it suddenly felt a lot easier to deal with.

Feeling like you ‘can’t cope’ or are ‘overwhelmed’ are fairly abstract things, and there isn’t any easy solution that will help – you must get down to the root cause of why you are feeling overwhelmed.

Once I realised what the problem was, dealing with it became fairly straightforward. I was feeling overwhelmed because I felt like other people were deciding how I spent my time, so I decided to take back control in the following ways:

– Writing a list of things I needed to do, and deciding which one thing on that list was the most important for me to do right now. The list could include eating, sleeping, taking a break as well as any work obligations or housework. Once I had decided on the one thing I was going to do next, I gave myself permission to completely ignore the rest of it, knowing that I was dealing with the most important thing.

– Deciding that I was going to take control over how people interacted with me. I disabled voicemail on my mobile and landline, so that I wouldn’t feel obliged to return calls if someone left a message. If it’s important enough they will ring back or send me an email. (I also set an out of office for my emails, so people would know not to expect a response straight away.)

– I started using a programme to manage tasks in the different projects I was working on; I use Asana, but there are lots of them out there. This lets me decide in advance when I’m going to do a particular task – it’s kind of like a long-term version of the to do list step above.

Now I’m quite lucky in that I have a fair amount of control over my working life, and I’m able to make decisions like removing voicemail from my phone – you may not be able to do that. However I am confident that you will be able to find some ways that work for you, if this is a problem that you’re facing. Perhaps you can decide to only answer emails once a day? Or go for a walk during your lunch break, so that you can’t be interrupted and asked to do something else?

The last big important thing that I would like to say is this – be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for becoming stressed, as we all do it. Recognise that your mind is probably getting a bit carried away, and you need to calm it down (breathe) and address what is really at the root of the problem. You do have the ability to deal with it.

Cat x

Taking the leap

This blog post started out called ‘Why you shouldn’t have to get a proper job’. It was going to be about working for yourself, how it’s ok if you feel stifled by the 9-5, and how we are funnelled from school in to work without necessarily realising that there’s another option. However, as I wrote it I realised it was taking another direction. I expect I’ll still write the original post at some point, but today it turns out there’s a little bit of my personal story that wants to come out…

I recently had reason to compile an employment history, going back ten years. After quite a lot of effort, I ended up with a list of seventeen different places I had worked during that time – and I’m not convinced that I got all of them! It might be fair to assume that I was temping, or that these were fairly unskilled, disposable sort of jobs. Perhaps I was no good and kept getting fired? And where is my career progression?

The truth is, I don’t have what most people would term a ‘proper job’. I have had them in the past; the seventeen I managed to list included teaching A levels, working as a research associate at a university, and mentoring vulnerable young people.

But here’s what it boils down to – the ‘normal’ sorts of jobs that I had been conditioned to aspire to just don’t suit me. Although I have almost always enjoyed the day-to-day work, I so often felt restricted, or like I couldn’t quite do what I wanted to with the role, or make it as good as I thought it could be. I got bored with doing the same stuff, day in day out, and could never spend more than a couple of years in a job before I started to feel stale. And really – I don’t like spending my time fulfilling someone else’s agenda.

Accepting that doing this sort of job was not working out for me was a challenge, and came along with a lot of guilt and uncertainty. ‘Get a proper job’ had been so ingrained in to my life plan from an early age I almost felt like I’d failed, or like there was something wrong with me because I felt so uncomfortable doing it. I spent a number of years working freelance on the side, trying to build up experience and contacts so I could ‘one day’ leave work and do what I actually wanted to do. Of course, I had to put my ‘real job’ first, so I was never able to spare enough time to get my own stuff to a stage where it was much more than a hobby.

Then ‘one day’, I just decided to do it. I had been working a few short-term contracts which were coming to an end, and I quite simply decided not to try and get them renewed, and not to look for anything else. It was wonderfully liberating, and utterly terrifying.

In case you are reading this assuming that I must have had a nice financial cushion to support me making this leap let me set the scene: I was a single mum, living in a flat on the outskirts of Oxford. I had a few thousand pounds in savings, which I’d managed to scrape together by working about five different jobs. I was on tax credits and housing benefit.

Looking back, I have no idea how I had the courage to take the leap. In actual fact I don’t remember that time of my life very clearly – I was living moment to moment just trying to get by, skirting round the edge of depression, and just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. I was often up working until the early hours of the morning, as well as in any snatched moment that I could, just to make sure I fulfilled my contracted hours. Most weeks I would drop my daughter off at ballet on a Monday afternoon, and then sit on the floor in the entrance hall studying, making notes, or planning things for the next day – I couldn’t even justify taking time out for that half an hour. I wasn’t really living, just existing.

Naturally, my daughter suffered too. I was so exhausted from work I barely had the energy to play with her, not to mention the fact that it was hard to be truly in the moment with her while my mind wandered off to the huge pile of work that awaited as soon as she was in bed.

Giving up work was a massive leap of faith – I had no idea what was going to happen, or how I was going to survive. I had a bit of work lined up, and I had taken over the running of a local festival (on a voluntary basis) so my vague plan was to build that to the point where it provided me with a living. How I was going to do that, I didn’t have a clue, but I knew that I *had* to make it work.

It’s now nearly three years since I gave up employment, and I can honestly say that I’ve not regretted it for a second. I still work as hard as ever, and there are still times when it’s stressful and I feel like I’m being pulled in twenty different directions. However the single biggest difference is that I have total control over what I do and don’t do. If I don’t like the ethos of an individual or an organisation, I don’t work with them. I decide how much I’m worth paying, and charge my clients accordingly. I structure my working day to fit around my daughter so I pick her up from school every day – and when I take her to ballet I take a trashy novel to read!

So here’s what I would like to say to you today: so many people will tell you to face your fears, take the leap, push yourself, make that huge decision. For me, it wasn’t like that at all – it was simply realising that I was worth more than the life I had created for myself. I deserved better; my daughter deserved better. Taking the leap wasn’t a huge catastrophic thing, it was like a sigh of relief and a gift to myself all rolled in to one – albeit quite a scary one!

I was going to write that something about knowing I was going to make it work because I had no other option, but that’s not quite true; as a qualified teacher I always knew I had that to fall back on, if I got really desperate. To be honest, I could have got a job in Tesco if I got really desperate. The truth is I gave myself no other option, because I simply could not bear to let myself live that way again.

So, over to you. Is that vague feeling of unsatisfaction enough for you to make a change in your life? How bad will it need to get before you do something about it? Be honest with yourself – you may not be as miserable as I was, but are you worth more than the life you are living at the moment?

If so, I urge you to take the leap. You may just surprise yourself.

Cat x

Going to the gym.. no I really am going.. honest.

I’m trying to get fit at the moment. I don’t just mean fitter, because that implies some basic level of ‘fit’ to improve on. I’d even settle for fit-ish to be honest.

I have been to the gym this morning. I’m supposed to go three times a week, however last week I went once, and the week before I’m not sure I managed it at all. But here’s the thing – whenever I do make it to the gym, I do quite enjoy it. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that thinking about going to the gym is far worse than actually doing it.

I could spend the rest of this blog post speculating about why that is, but I don’t think that’s a particularly helpful question at this stage, so here’s the one I’m going with:

How can I get myself down the gym even when I don’t want to go?

Seeing as I’m going to attempt two more trips this week, I thought I’d better try to answer this question, so I can refer back to it later if necessary. Here’s what I have come up with so far:

– Don’t think about it (this was my tactic this morning). Decide that you are going (preferably the night before when it’s a safe distance away), and then refuse to think about it again.

– Arrange everything beforehand so that it’s easy for you to do it. This morning I put everything in my car that I would need before I did the school run, then when I got back I didn’t need to go in the house for anything, and didn’t risk a sneaky sit down turning in to a two-hour email marathon.

– Tie it to another activity, so that in your head both are linked – this morning for me this was the school run and going straight to the gym afterwards.

– Arrange a reward for afterwards (no, not cake). My gym has a jacuzzi so sometimes I bribe myself with a relax in the bubbles afterwards.

– Realise that, no matter how important it seems to reply to this email RIGHT NOW (or finish that game of Candy Crush), actually the world is not going to end if you take an hour out for yourself.  I have started to see the gym as some me-time, and as something that I am doing for myself, to improve my health and fitness, and general quality of life. It’s very easy to lose yourself in the demands of other people, and it’s a really important and special thing to be able to set aside some time that is just for you.

If you’ve got any more tips about getting yourself to the gym, please comment below – I may need some backup on the days when even my top five aren’t cutting it!

Now, I just need to see if I can apply these principles to doing my tax return…. 😉

Cat x

The Value of Compassion

I read a really interesting article this morning on the value of compassion; it is a great read if you’re in to psychological research, but for those of us who like to get straight to the point, I’ve pulled out what I think are the most interesting bits:

Compassion is defined by the author as “the emotional response when perceiving suffering” and as involving “an authentic desire to help”. It’s different from empathy (experiencing someone else’s feelings) and altruism (doing something to benefit someone else) because of the active desire to help others, triggered by the emotional reaction to their suffering.

There’s a lot of evidence to support the idea that compassion is an innate behaviour – that is, one that occurs naturally, rather than having to be learned. Scientists have studied chimpanzees, rats, and human babies and found evidence of compassionate behaviour in all of them. Most people will be familiar with the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’, but here the article explains how the work of Charles Darwin might be more accurately described as ‘survival of the kindest’; compassion is a trait that is absolutely necessary for the survival of the human race.

As well as the obvious benefit of maintaining the existence of the the human race, compassion also has huge benefits for the wellbeing of individuals. The article describes a number of studies which show that the act of giving to others makes us feel better than receiving for ourselves. Amazingly, this even affects us on a biological level. The cells in our body often become inflamed under stress, which is something believed to be at the root of cancer and other diseases. You would expect that people who describe themselves as happy would have less stress, and therefore less cell inflammation. However, one study found that this was only true for people who lived a life of “purpose or meaning” (i.e. helping others), and that people who described themselves as happy but lived a fairly selfish life still had high levels of inflammation in their cells. And if that’s not enough to convince you – it’s generally accepted that if you’ve got high stress levels you’re going to die younger, yes? Well, not if you help people, according to another study quoted in this article. It seems that compassionate behaviour actually helps the counteract the results of stress in our bodies. Yet another study even found that people who volunteer live longer than those who don’t.

Anyone who has experienced the feelings of pleasure gained from helping someone in need will know how compassion can affect your mental health. The article speculates that this may also link to increased social connections, known to be a significant benefit to wellbeing. In fact, one study indicates that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure. (Although possibly not if you’re doing all three at once..!) I think I might choose to interpret this as an excellent excuse to spend more time on Facebook..! 😉

So if you’re looking for ways to improve your life you could do worse than cultivating some compassion! I often think the world would be a much better place if we all followed the basic premise of ‘be nice to people’ – now it turns out that it’s actually good for our own physical and mental health as well!

You can get regular updates on the science of wellbeing by subscribing via the website of Emma Seppala, who wrote the original article. Or you could keep coming back here and let me put it in to bite-size chunks for you!

Happy weekend 🙂

Cat x

How to Make Stuff Happen

Well, the pressure’s on now! Having decided to write an inspirational blog to show that ordinary people can be awesome, I now have to work out what to write…!

A couple of years ago I was working through an exercise which asked you to look at a situation where you had achieved something, and pick apart what it was that you did in order to do that thing. No matter how much you might think that things ‘just happen’, there are always steps that we go through (consciously or unconsciously) in order to get to that place. If you can pinpoint what it is that you do when you are at your most successful, then you can use this formula and apply it to other situations which may seem challenging.

The example I picked was when I first started running a festival, which had been a dream of mine since university. My formula for success turned out something like this:

– First I gathered a team of people round me who also wanted to make it happen, and were committed to helping me to do it.

– I had good reasons why I HAD to make it work. It was something I desperately wanted to do, and in addition to that, it was something that I felt was important for my local community and something that ought to be happening – if I could do it, then I should do it. Those are good enough reasons to try, but I realised I also had something else – something worth losing if it didn’t work out. The three key things for me were my reputation, my pride, and the money I faced losing – failure was simply not an option. It wasn’t a case of trying and seeing whether it worked, I was going to MAKE it work whether it wanted to or not.

– I committed to it emotionally. It was a big risk, and I had to accept that and the fear associated with that as part of the committment. It’s not that I wasn’t afraid, or that I didn’t worry – but that I accepted that fear as part of the process and didn’t let it stop me doing what I wanted to do.

– On the practical side of things, I worked out a broad timescale of what needed doing and when. Which were the big important milestones? When did I need to have these decisions made by? I focused on the big stuff, and left the little bits to sort themselves out along the way.

– I did the bulk of the work in a few large chunks; put in the time, got stuff done, and then it needed a relatively small input on a regular basis to keep it ticking over.

– I shouted about it A LOT. I got in everyone’s face, whenever possible; I never left the house without a leaflet or business card that I could press on to an unsuspecting potential punter, I took posters and programmes to meetings and handed them out to people who thought they were attending to talk about something else entirely, and I actively searched out any opportunity to put myself in front of people where there was a vague chance they might be interested.

– It was on my mind all the time. Everywhere I went, everything I did, I would be thinking about potential for the festival. Four years later I am still doing the same thing – every time I walk in to a building I find myself running a quick mental check of how it could work as a venue!

– And finally, always have an end in mind. I’m not necessarily talking about having a detailed plan of everything that’s going to happen; I often have no idea what my project is going to look like at the end, but I always have some sort of concept or goal in mind. For me personally, this often relates to how something is going to feel when it’s working out right, or the way in which people are going to react to it. For you it might be a picture, or a mental image, or perhaps you’re that person who details out every step of the way! For the festival, I had a firm, unshakeable belief from the start that I wanted to run an event that the local community would feel a part of, and feel ownership of. That intention influenced every decision I made, and was the thing that helped to mould the concept of the festival as it grew in my head. Having an intention or goal simplifies things, because every decision can be boiled down to whether it takes you further away from your goal or moves you towards it.

So that’s a rough guide to how I get stuff done – but your way may be completely different! I would really encourage you to take some time to think about a time when you did something successfully, and analyse the steps you took in that process. What are the values that stand out for you? What were the beliefs underpinning your actions?

I’d be really interested to hear how you get on – drop me a line in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter!

Cat x

The First Post

I’ve always found the Last Post an incredibly moving piece of music; it’s one that’s on my mind a lot as we approach Rememberance Sunday in the year that marks 100 years since the start of the First World War, and in fact a friend of mine was on the radio today talking about this project.

I suspect the current mood of reflection is going to continue over the next few years, as each year brings us closer to the centenary of the end of the war. And that’s good; looking back is important, especially when something is as devastating and catastrophic as a world war. The *most* important thing however, is to learn from our past experiences, not to live there.  Life does move on, and the best way to truly honour what has gone before is to use it to learn from and to help you move forwards, living the best life that you can.

So from the Last Post to the First Post: My hope for this blog is that I can use it to inspire people – I want you to believe that anything is possible, and that you don’t have to be some kind of extraordinary person to do something special. I’d like to share things with you that I’ve learnt, that I find interesting, and that I’m generally mulling over. I’d like you to share things with me! I’d like to start a community of ordinary, inspirational people, who want to learn and grow together.

If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, then welcome on board! Please feel free to leave me a comment, like and share on Facebook or Twitter, and let’s get the fun started 🙂