How to Start

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Twenty eight minutes.

That is all I have.  Twenty eight minutes to distil my thoughts into a blog post.  I’m in the coffee shop and the battery life of my lap-top has imposed this limit on me.

What am I feeling?  Pressure to create.  Where do I start? How do I start?

Sometimes I feel that my writing just flows.  My desktop tells a different story.  It’s a graveyard of half-written posts, abandoned to the scrap heap of history.  The one about learning to slice onions was particularly awful.  Maybe I’ll post it one day, so you can agree.

Getting started is usually the biggest hurdle.  The blank page.  The blinking cursor.  It’s almost mocking me.  Come on – fill me up.  Bring me to life.  How difficult can that possibly be?

My personal best is 47 minutes.  I’ve sat and stared.  Occasionally an idea popped into my head.  No, who’d want to read about that?  Too boring.  Too trite.  Too patronising.  Even I wouldn’t read that.  Back to staring, and waiting.

If only I was as amazing at everything as I am at self-censoring.  Life would be a breeze.

So how do I get started.  Breaking inertia, getting the ball rolling.  Michael Atavar, author of the brilliant How to Be an Artist probably sums it up best:


Pick something, anything to fill the vacuum.  Look at the world around you.  The people, the environment, nature, the sky, the sunlight playing on the water, the feeling you have inside you, the photograph of the old man in the café covering his eyes, the colour of the paint on the wall.  Anything that catches your interest.

Congratulations, you’ve started.  Now do something with it. Write it down, talk about it with someone, draw it, photograph it, video it, write a haiku about it.  The first building block.

Where does this take you?  What happens next, where does your mind draw you?  Find the excitement, open the next door and see what is behind. The rust starts to flake off the mental cog wheels.  Each rotation gets easier.  The rolling stone picks up momentum.  Moss be gone.

Starting something is much easier than not starting something. Not starting is static, frustrating, tedious.

Starting is dynamic, energizing, exciting, creative. It’s not important if you’re trying to write a blog post, get a project moving, find a new job or change the world.  Everything has to start somewhere.

So I pick something.  Twenty eight minutes.  I roll with it.  The wheels turn.  Something else follows.  Suddenly the words are flowing.  I’m riding a train of thought, not exactly sure where it is going.  And then I reach the destination, and I’m pleased.  With 8 minutes still to spare.  Time to start something new….

What are you ready to start?  How long have you been waiting?  How do you get the ball rolling?  What gets you unstuck?  Please leave a comment and let the LOL community know.

Great blogs about starting

Marc Winitz at Black Belt Guide on Making a Breakthrough.

Tess at The Bold Life on Living Without Regret.

Photo Credit: Lord Jim from Flickr Creative Commons

Viktor Frankl – Lessons from a Concentration Camp

Reading Time: 3 minutes and 1 second

less ordinary living, find your purpose, enjoy life, enjoy your career

Find your Purpose

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What can we learn from a man stripped of all his worldly possessions and dignity?  The psychologist Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning spent four years in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.  He survived some of the most inhumane treatment in modern history.  As a doctor, Frankl focused his energy and strength on studying those around him during this deprivation.  He learned a huge amount about the importance of living a life of meaning.

Everyday Life in Auschwitz

Frankl interviewed hundreds of inmates he treated in camp hospitals.  He identified that those who survived the illness and mistreatment almost always had a deeper meaning or purpose in their lives.  In Frankl’s own case, he was determined to survive to be reunited with his wife, the love of his life.  This drove him to dig frozen earth, endure countless beatings and fight off the scourges of malnutrition and tetanus for four years.

What Makes Us Give Up?

Frankl watched fellow inmates succumb to what he called “giveupitis”.  One day, they would simply lie in bed and refuse to get up, ignoring beatings and abuse from the guards.  At this point, Frankl sadly noted that they had given up their reason for living and their death was usually came within a day or two.  Without purpose they had no reason to go on.

The Power of Purpose

Frankl’s groundbreaking work has huge significance for your life. Without meaning, life can be tinged with a deep seated feeling of futility and emptiness.  Frankl saw this manifest in “giveupitis” amongst his patients and fellow inmates.  Today this lack of meaning can lead to a lack of motivation, energy and excitement.  It can hold you back from chasing your vision and goals and keep you stuck in the ordinary.

Finding a deeper purpose provides the motivation to strive for success.   It helps with springing out of bed in the morning and providing the energy to push for what is really important.

How to Find your Purpose

Ask yourself the following questions to identify your purpose:

Overcoming Challenges

  • Think about your toughest situations when you’ve been closest to giving up. What was the spark that kept burning and got you through?
  • What did you continue to believe in?

Greatest Days

  • Think about your greatest and most fulfilling moments in life where you felt most proud?
  • What was your driving force to achieve these amazing feats?
  • What makes you feel proud about what you did?

People Power

  • Who are the most important people in your life?
  • What do they mean to you?
  • How do they inspire and motivate you?

So, what is your purpose?  How do you plan to make the most of that today and every day?  What have you learned from Viktor Frankl’s experience?  Please share your passion with the LOL Community by leaving a comment. And if you have time, pick up a copy of Man’s Search for Meaning, a truly inspiring read.

Photo credit: Studio 494 from Flickr Creative Commons

How to Find Love on Valentine's Day

Reading Time: 2 minutes and 39 seconds

live life to the full


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St. Valentine’s Day.  What was your first reaction?  February 14th is a day that divides opinion – you either love it or loathe it.  For one day, the world is supposed to become flooded with modern day Romeos wooing their Juliets.   We’re encouraged to reveal our secret crushes, send cards, bestow flowers and romantic gestures on the objects of our affection.  Love is in the air, cupid cruising with his bow and arrow.

Personally, I don’t hold much affection for the Hallmark Holiday this has become; I find that once celebrations get tinged  by commercialism they lose their meaning.  I’ve spent too many years crammed into battery farm restaurants, nose to tail with 500 other nauseating couples, eating the overpriced menu and drinking the underwhelming cava.  However, St. Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to think about love and how it fits into our lives – regardless of our romantic situation.

What is love?

Love is one of the most used and abused words in our language.  It is much more complex than the romantic love that St Valentine’s Day now emphasizes.  In its simplest form, love can be defined as a “profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person”.  Love is a feeling of concern, empathy and compassion towards another living creature.  When we feel love, just for a split second, we go outside our head and put ourselves firmly into the shoes of someone else.  We feel their pain, we share their joy, we put their interests on a level with ours.  Love in its purest form is about understanding how someone else feels.

Love is All Around

Take a walk around today and you’ll see love in unexpected places.  The patient mum caring for her screaming toddler, the group of friends sharing a joke on the bus, the young lady giving up her seat for the pensioner.  These actions are all based in love, a feeling of empathy for another person.  Love is a shared experience where people recognise that they are not the only person who matters in the world.

Almost every human belief system has a version of the maxim to love your neighbour as you love yourself.  This rule is never reserved for one day a year, it is for every day living.  Loving others helps to break the bubble of self-absorption that humans can develop.  It opens us up what is going on the world around us.  Showing love and compassion to others allows us to receive love in return.

Give a Little Piece of your Love

I think I’ve found my peace with St. Valentine.  The real St. Valentine was brutally stoned to death for protecting outlawed Christians in the Roman Empire.  He gave his own life to protect others, the ultimate act of love.  Two millennia later, his example has reinforced the importance of treating others with respect, compassion and care.  I’ve started to see love all around me in the simplest human moments.  I will strive to treat each person I encounter with the love that I would like to receive.  Not just today, but every day.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

Photo credit: Mohsen

Life's Too Short to be Ordinary

Reading Time: 2 minutes 12 seconds

Career change, career transition, fulfillment, purpose

Life's Too Short

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Every morning, we are born again”  Buddhist Maxim

How do you get through the day?  A simple question.  What keeps you going when the going gets tough?  One common way is to put our heads down and soldier on.  Humans have a remarkable ability to put on a suit of armour that protects them from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.  Another way is to ride the emotional roller-coaster.  Like all roller-coasters we tend to feel sick with fear and anticipation on the way up and scream on the way down.  These approaches both get us through the day, but it feels like a struggle to survive.

Life shouldn’t be ordinary and it shouldn’t just be keeping our head above water.  It’s too easy to forget that our days are limited and precious.  I’ve found that creating some daily principles for living help me to be more intentional every day.  It gives me a foundation for how to approach life.  These rules help me to live life to the full.

What do daily principles look like?  Well here are mine:

  1. Life is a Precious Gift – Make the most of it
  2. Treat others as you’d like to be treated
  3. Be authentic and true to your values
  4. Find joy in everything you do
  5. Inspire others to make the most of life
  6. Work is love made life – put your heart into everything that you do

I created this list a few weeks ago.  I took myself out on an hour long run with the plan to capture the essence of how I’d like to live my life.  Running is my most creative place and the ideas just started to flow.  At the end (after mopping my sweaty brow), I wrote down my first draft.  I stewed on these for a day or two, made some changes and suddenly I had this powerful list.  Now I have this list up in my office, on my fridge door, and carry it around on a card in my wallet.

We are born again each morning .  I love to review these ideas every morning to get my head in the game.  I’m able to set my intention for how I’d like to be that day.  Just to be reminded that life is precious every morning is crucial.  When I wake up feeling sad, stressed or unexcited I’m reminded to find joy in life. Most importantly the principles take away the temptation to simply survive – I remember that life is too short to be ordinary.

What are your principles?  How do you remember to live life, rather than just surviving it?  Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Picture credit – Moustaque

12 Sources of Inspiration

Reading Time: 2 minutes 56 seconds

Less Ordinary Living, inspiration, focus

Inspiration (photo by Devinlynnx)

Less Ordinary Living is committed to providing inspiration to enable you to make the most of your potential – to never miss a drop, click here to subscribe.  To read our series on Finding your Focus and find out how to be more effective and inspired, click the link.

I’m excited to have added an Inspiration Page to the site to share some of my favourite sources of inspiration for Less Ordinary Living.  I’ll keep updating this regularly, so its always worth a look.  Below, I’ve shared 12 websites brimming with cutting edge articles, talks and videos from some of the world’s leading writers and thinkers.  Before you explore, please add a comment and everyone else know your favourite sources of inspiration (on the web, books, people, personal practices)

The Half Way Point – Belinda Munoz’s blog is about choosing positivity.  She explores the things we want (or think we want), what trips us up getting there, how we overcome those snags and what we learn along the way.  Beautifully written, philosophical and poetic.

Zen Habits – the grand-daddy of personal development blogs with over 150,000 readers.  Simple productivity is the key here – particularly strong on lists.

Change your Thoughts – Steven Aitchison is a Scottish blogger with a great point of view on the world brought from his own personal experiences.  He focusing on how our changing our thinking can change our lives.

Success without a Suit – This blog is particularly focussed on how professional women can find fulfilment outside the traditional career paths and is written by the outstanding Carly Goldsmith

Unwrap your mind – a practical and down to earth guide to getting things done effectively.  Has a great guide to achieving your goals in five steps.

Unclutterer – if you struggle with clutter in your life, this is the place for you.  Advice on minimalism and getting rid of unneeded baggage.

Good Life Zen – Mary Jaksch writes clearly and with calm about living a zen life and finding inner peace.  Great use of multimedia here.

Escape from Cubicle Nation – if you are hoping to get away from that cube and follow your passion, this is a great place to start.

Mark Vernon – English philosopher and founder of the amazing School of Life – a place to explore and be curious.  Always engaging and stimulating.

TED – TED share ideas worth spreading.  Hundreds of inspiring talks from some of the world’s leading speakers including Steve Jobs, Dan Pink, Malcolm Gladwell and Ben Zander.  Endless inspiration here

We are What We Do – A website designed to change the world, one small deed at a time.   Starting from the question, how would you change the world for five pounds, this is a source of creativity and fresh thinking.

The Royal Society of Arts – a 250 year old organisation devoted to provoking ideas and inspiring change in society.  This resource has audio from some of the amazing speakers they host including Mattieu Ricard.

Enjoy and be inspired.