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Change your world with your mind?

October 16, 2012

in Miscellaneous, Personal, Two of us

We have just heard that Charles’ employer is planning to cut his salary (and hence his pension some day too…) very drastically in the name of cost cutting. We were just planning our holiday, and although this won’t affect that directly as it won’t happen for a little while, it cast a cloud.

The nature of the cloud interested me. It was true that the holiday cost also seemed greater than usual, so we had conversations like ‘we don’t have to eat out, we can get deli food, that’s much cheaper…’. We’d probably do that anyway, we usually do. What struck me though was how lowering that was. The idea. Go on holiday and economise.

It’s about how I feel – ‘rich’ or ‘poor’. And it’s just a state of mind, since we’re not about to go without food or get thrown out of our house. I’m not going all sweet natured here, I’m not thinking about blessing counting. I’m thinking – how do you manipulate your own frame of mind so’s you feel good?? In this case ‘rich’?

It works the same over the holiday feeling. I work at home. I can work, answering emails, taking bookings, editing thinkingardens, updating websites, from the minute I wake up to when I go to bed. That’s what having a netbook I can use in bed does.

But I have noticed that – with the right support from Charles, I can feel ‘on holiday’ at home. It takes the two of us to give up being worthy and deciding we are ‘holidaying’. It helps if the rest of the world is at it too. Charles doesn’t get Bank Holidays off often, or even weekends, but when he does those help somehow, if he can let go of his own work (he also does work at home) and play at being on holiday.

Again, it’s a frame of mind issue. So what stops me from feeling rich and holidayish all the time? Why can’t I adopt this frame of reference and make my world fantastic? It’s like a trick that I can feel almost able to reach. A trick I can pull sometimes…then I lose it. I think part of it is a fear – that if I let myself believe something like that when it isn’t true something bad will happen. Maybe I’ll become careless with money, spend it all, or not do any work at all – and then… And then???? Really???? Would I? Could I?

People have been struggling with this at least since Hamlet said, more succinctly than I have “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so“. Someone must have got a handle on it, somewhere..


J Sherry October 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm

The question you are really asking here is surely: can we change the way we think, or are we “programmed” by nature, or “taught” by nurture, to respond in a certain way to certain circumstances/events so that it is beyond us to change how we respond to those circumstances/events?
I think experience indicates that it IS possible to change how you react/respond to events, but that it is far from easy to do so & may require professional help to do so on big issues. Doing it alone often fails simply because it requires time & effort & strength of will and inevitably one will often throw up one’s hands & say”oh it’s too hard, I’ll just carry on being as I am” !!
I do agree, by the way, with the comment that counting your blessings can sometimes improve your general mood.

anne October 21, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Professional help, or perhaps a partner/spouse with influence? And it does seem that there is evidence for the counting blessings thing, so definitely worth a go…

Ben Ranyard October 17, 2012 at 10:37 am

The way we think about things is EVERYTHING and it’s non optional…we do it all the time, it’s simply how we work. I firmly believe the saying “whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you are probably right”. Folk often sneer at the ‘counting your blessings’ approach but in fact being grateful for the small things can greatly improve your state of mind.
Ones way of thinking is personality defining. ‘I think therefore I am’.
…I can give you a workshop if you like. ‘Think your way into giving me a tenner”

anne October 17, 2012 at 10:50 am

Umm..think your last proposal confronts the limitations of our mental flexibility…

Charles October 16, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Without wanting to take the wind of of your well crafted sails, it’s not a “drastic” cut. Like it hasn’t been drastic that I haven’t had a pay rise for three years. Or that they reduced our car allowances. Or that they are going to stop paying our professional subscriptions. It’s just a bit of a blow. But I know you are addressing matters that are much more problemstic. That “being on holiday” feeling. But do we not need a contrast between “work” and “holiday”? Maybe not. I don’t know what retirement will be like. Is it like a long holiday? And I’m not even sure I want that.

anne October 16, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Well, I do know that it is the cumulative effect that is drastic, but didn’t think people would want all the gory details..

We do need contrast, but work of some kind is inevitable. What is not is feeling like you are working all the time. Think you’ll find retirement is more like that than permanent holiday unless we beat this (and the ‘poor’one!).

John October 16, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Sorry about Charles (I’ll email him; my similar experiences may indicate some possibilities).

Spending wisely on holiday isn’t “lowering” or “cheap”; it’s just being wise. It’s what we do every day when we compare prices in the supermarket or invite friends to drink at home as it’s a lot cheaper than drinking out.

More importantly, though, working from home demands discipline. I limit the hours I work in a day and the number of days I work in a week. When I have “holidays” at home I switch off from work. I have a home phone number and a work one. I have work email addresses and private ones. I tell clients when I’m having a holiday and they know that during that time I won’t answer work phone calls or emails. I never answer calls on Sundays (and only on Saturdays by prior arrangement); nor before 9 am or after 6 pm on any day.

I may flex things a bit – if it’s fine I may spend time in the garden and work in the evening or when it’s wet but this doesn’t change the daily and weekly limits.

And I never, ever, “work” in bed.

You need to be able to set these limits on your own; you shouldn’t need Charles to help you. And in the summer when you open on Sundays and/or public holidays, you should set another day (or days) to have off. Otherwise, one day you will wake up and realise that you are no longer a person, just a working machine.

Start by making two lists on one sheet of paper. Draw a line down the middle and on one side of that write things you do which are work (e.g. maintaining thinkingardens and maybe veddw’s garden blog) and on the other things which are private (e.g. maintaining this blog). That will focus your mind a bit. Have work and private Twitter IDs, email addresses, even phone numbers if you can. Go on, empower yourself!

anne October 16, 2012 at 5:22 pm

This is very helpful advice, John, for which many thanks.

But the issue isn’t what I do, it’s how I experience what I do. More problematic?


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