Why we all need a flexible plan

We’ve all done it – set out a plan in our heads of how we would like life to work out. I don’t mean once our lottery numbers come up when our world will consist of azure seas, large, airy houses and fabulous cars or is that just me? I mean the day to day, life plan, of how we get from here to there.

It’s all in the planning

When it comes to life, it’s good to have a plan. It gives you a roadmap for when things get bumpy. It helps keep you on the straight and narrow when circumstances can knock you off course. I’m a fan of planning.

Plans
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What I’m not a fan of, however, is having a plan so rigid there is no room for manoeuvre. If you think there is only one way to get from A to B you risk closing your mind to the possibilities that might occur if you travelled down a different road.

I am reminded of an old joke.

A man is sitting on a roof after a terrible flood. He watches the waters rise and thinks ‘God will save me.’ An hour or so later, a man comes along in a boat and offers to take him to safety. ‘No need,’ says the man on the roof. ‘God will save me.’

The waters continue to rise. A few hours later a helicopter hovers overhead and a man offers to winch him up and fly him to safety. ‘No need,’ says the man again. ‘God will save me.’

Later that night the waters close over the man’s head. When he meets St. Peter he says ‘What am I doing here? I thought God would save me.’ And St. Peter says, ‘We sent a boat and a helicopter. What more do you want?!’

Don’t Stay on the Roof

The moral of the story is that we have to be ready for the unexpected. When opportunities present themselves we shouldn’t ignore them because they don’t fit within our carefully constructed plan. They could be a valid way to get from A to B that we’ve never thought of before or they could take us in an entirely new direction and deliver us to a whole new destination that we could never have envisaged.

In this fast paced world, we have to be adaptable and less rigid in our thinking.   Having a flexible life plan enables you to do that.

So don’t stay on the roof, refusing to budge, because it isn’t part of your plan. Be prepared to jump in the boat if one comes along and see where it takes you.

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White Lies by Ellie Holmes http://Author.to/EllieHolmes
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The Beauty of Forgiveness

We have all been in situations were people have treated us harshly. Sometimes we deserved it. Sometimes we didn’t. It is only natural that we are going to react defensively when we perceive someone is attacking us, even if it is only with words. Our heart rate increases, our blood pressure goes up and anger kicks in.

But this is not a state of mind or body we should hang on to. Holding on to old hurts, nursing those grievances for weeks, months or even years, is always going to hurt us more than it will ever hurt the perpetrators of the original hurt.

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We cannot all exhibit saintliness and constantly react well to bad situations but the art of moving on quickly is the key to our own health and happiness. Nurturing anger, jealousy or hate will only reverberate negatively within us. Make peace with your anger and let it go. Try to understand that the person or people who have done you wrong were probably hurting themselves, lashing out at whatever was in front of them, weighed down by their own troubles. Few people in the world are truly evil. Most have simply had the odds stacked against them since birth and are overburdened by the memories of traumas we could not imagine unless we walked in their shoes.

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Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength.

The End – And a feeling of relief

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I finished my novel last weekend. High fives and glasses of wine all round. It’s gone off to my editor. Before I know it, it will be back with a myriad amendments to be made but for now, I have planted the words ‘The End’ like a flag on a mountain top.

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Whenever I reach the end of a novel I always feel a huge sense of relief. Relief that I went to the well and there were words there to find. Relief that I had an idea and a half decent novel emerged from it. Relief that those characters that I thought about and worked so hard to create have taken on lives beyond those I imagined for them. I gave them wings and away they flew. Relief that I can still do it. I can still pull it off. I can still spin a plot and weave the magic. The muse hasn’t abandoned me. Yet.

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Am I alone in my feelings of relief? I often wonder about that. Do other writers experience joy, happiness and pride when they reach the end of their novels? I am always so drained by the end of the writing journey that those feelings occur further down the road to publication. At the instant I finish and for the immediate days after, relief is all I feel.

It is not relief that the writing is over, you understand because I am always writing. There are always a dozen ideas waiting to be developed and explored. It is relief that I can still do my job. I am still a writer.

The relief comes hot on the tail of the fear that stalks me: that one day the words will not come, that the plot will not gel, nor the characters take flight. One day I will have an idea and not do it justice. One day I will not be able to capture lightning in a bottle. One day I will fail.

But that day is not today. Today I am a writer.

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Permission to Fly

So, New Year, New Start, New You!?

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Everywhere you look there are people telling you to be thinner, fitter, happier and healthier. They are promising you quick fixes to difficult problems. All you have to do is buy into their message and all will be well. For them, maybe. Financially. Call me a cynic but I don’t think we need any of these so called experts to show us the way. Most of what they peddle is common sense dressed up in fancy new clothes. If we stopped to think we’d probably know a lot of this stuff already and we could certainly use our intelligence to fill in any gaps.

We have all succumbed to the marketing skills of the New Year salesmen and women at one time or another. None of us is immune. They tap into the need within all of us to mark the start of a new year in a positive way. We are all keen to begin again. Whatever mistakes we made last year, the new year is a clean slate. We haven’t made any bad calls yet. We haven’t exercised any questionable judgement. We will, you know. It’s just a question of when but for the moment our slate is still shiny and untarnished.

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So if we have the ability within ourselves to tackle our own problems why do we, year after year, invest in the merry go round of New Year promises the gurus make on our behalves?   I think it comes down to belief. We have the knowledge, we have the ability. What we want is to put our faith in someone other than ourselves because we know ourselves only too well, right? We want to believe in the New Year Salesperson’s spiel because if we follow what they say to the letter we won’t fail this time. We won’t be the person we were before, the one who tripped and fell, the vulnerable one, the one who started with the best of intentions but faltered when things got hard. This time we’ll be a better version of ourselves, a new version.

If you want to be thinner, fitter, happier and healthier in 2017 I wish you all the best. They are worthy goals. But I think the best gift you can yourselves for the New Year is to promise yourself you will try to be fearless. I don’t mean reckless. I mean fearless.

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Don’t let your self doubt or your inhibitions hold you back.

There’s a whole world out there. Be fearless and give yourself permission to fly.

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Don’t be afraid to walk away

As some of you will know who follow my blog I am in the midst of rewriting a novel I wrote some years ago. It needed bringing up to date – smartphones have rather taken over our lives and I needed to address some inherent problems with the plot. I blogged about it here in Easy Option – https://goo.gl/qPP5SO

Now I am deep in the heart of the rewrites and my confidence is sometimes high but mostly low as I grapple with the mess that was once a cohesive novel albeit a troubled one. I am sure you are all familiar with the saying ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs’. Well my desk is covered in broken eggs right now and it is hard to keep the faith.

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One part of the story was giving me more trouble than any other and I spent a couple of days beating myself up at the keyboard wondering why I just couldn’t make it work. Sometimes you can just be too close to a piece of work and all it takes is a little distance to see where you were going wrong.

Exhausted by the process of getting nowhere, my brain aching from turning the same problems over in my mind and not reaching any satisfactory conclusions, I decided to take a complete break from writing for a couple of days.

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It was a brave thing to do (some might say foolhardy) given I had a self imposed tight deadline but that in itself was adding to my stress levels. When you can no longer see the wood for the trees your writer’s spidey senses are hardly going to be at their best. So I decided to pull the plug for a while.

I stopped being Ellie Holmes the writer and just enjoyed being me. It took a few hours for the white noise of a busy writer’s brain to calm itself. A dose of reality TV and comfort food helped. And once peace reigned, I lived for a few days like normal people live. You should try it some time. I highly recommend it.

As you can tell from this blog, it didn’t last long. A brief holiday from my writer’s self was all I needed to recharge the batteries and rev up the creative engine. But as with a traditional mini break I came back refreshed, reinvigorated and ready for the challenge.

 

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The Power of Belief

Self-belief can be a wonderful asset for a person to have. ‘I believe in me and my abilities’ can be a life affirming and life fulfilling statement but what if, like the rest of us mere mortals, you are plagued with doubts as to your own abilities? What if your confidence in yourself ebbs and flows like a tide? If that sounds like you then I would argue that the most powerful sentence you can hear will be that spoken by another person and that sentence will be ‘I believe in you’.

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When someone else tells you, either by their words or their deeds, that they believe in you it can be a powerful and potentially life changing moment. Depending on where you are in your own life, someone else’s belief can either spur you along the path you were already on or it can send you along an entirely new route you never envisaged.

I think the most powerful example of belief is when someone spots something in you that you haven’t seen in yourself. How wonderful when they have confidence in your ability to achieve something that wasn’t even on your radar. In that situation you have the chance to view yourself through someone else’s eyes and think ‘If they see me like that perhaps I ought to see myself like that’.

The times when that happens are the times when you feel as though someone has given you wings and allowed you to fly. If you stay aloft not only do you repay that person by showing them that their belief in you was justified but you also discover new things about yourself that you might never have known without a gentle push in the right direction.

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I have been fortunate to be the beneficiary of such belief and can attest to the power that knowledge unleashes. The things I have done are things a few years ago I never would have thought myself capable of achieving.

Once the bottle of belief has been uncorked, your confidence will grow with every sip so that not only can you excel at the thing you first attempted but you carry on excelling in different ways and all because one person told you they believed in you.

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Self confidence and self belief are wonderful attributes but the real gift is to be believed in by someone else. We should all get the chance to experience that moment but why not start the ball rolling by telling someone in your life that you believe in them and then sit back and watch them fly.

 

The importance of teamwork

As the John Donne quote says ‘No man is an island’. I have recently been working on a large project for my day job. The scale of the job was huge and the logistics of it were all a little terrifying. Having identified a problem and offered a solution it was down to me to put the plan into action and make it happen. The weight of responsibility I felt was so heavy I tried not to think about it too often. If you’re walking along a ledge don’t look down!

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There were a few occasions in the planning stage when I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew but I was so far in there was no way out by then. I did a lot of planning but the best bit of planning I did was in picking the team of people I would be working with. I asked two colleagues to assist knowing they were hard workers, sensible and trustworthy. I also hired outside help, working with someone with whom I have worked before and who, again, I knew to be hardworking, sensible and trustworthy. He then brought two more people with him. When you trust the person you choose to work with, it becomes easy to trust their judgment on the people they are bringing along and so it was.

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The six of us made a formidable team. There were no weak links. We all brought something slightly different to the project and consequently the mountain of a task that had seemed so unassailable a few weeks ago has now (almost) been scaled.

It is amazing what a strong team of people can achieve when working towards a common goal.

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As crucial as it is to pick the right people to work with it is just as important to lead by example. You should never ask someone to do something which you are not prepared to do yourself and you should never allow your team to put themselves in danger, even if it means taking on those tasks yourself if they absolutely have to be done.

A strong team that brings the best out of the people within it is just about invincible as I have discovered this week. So next time you have a project that is too big to cope with alone be sure to pick your team wisely and part of the battle will already have been won.

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