Gathering the straws of life together

Recent Posts

Milk and honey

Milk and honey

Milk and honey is a metaphor meaning “all good things” – abundance and prosperity. Milk is a symbol for life. As we know babies drink only milk in the early months of life. Milk is so versatile. We can make milk drinks, use it in […]

Hen Haven

Hen Haven

Living with chickens at our place has its interesting moments as we create a hen haven for our chickens. Backyard chickens are becoming more popular and if you have the space and are able to offer a good home for your girls you will have end […]

As good as it gets

As good as it gets

Have you ever woken up one morning and thought is this “as good as it gets”? I am sure there are many of us as we navigate life and ageing. Not that I am that old – yet! But like all other baby boomers, I am getting older.

I am reminded of the movie “As Good As It Gets”. The movie received multiple awards. Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear (the main actors) all received an Academy Award Oscar for their performance. All together the movie received at least 40 winner awards from 1997 – 1999 and that is not counting award nominations. The awards that actors receive are for a performance, that is, pretending to be someone else and living a life that is not the authentic self.

In life and sport most people aim to be their authentic self. Life is a long-distance race and I believe we will get better results if we are authentic with ourselves and others. Then the best we can do is to keep running the race and never quit, even when the going gets tough – for a while this may be “as good as it gets”.

As good as it gets – a family wedding.

In competitive sports the aim is to win. Competitions include the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games and other sporting events across the world. They test the skill, ability and tenacity of sportspeople. But the Olympic Games competition is not only about winning, it is also about bringing a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. Not everyone can win all the time. This is a key lesson for children. Not everyone takes home the trophy but us older people can encourage children to do their best – that is all we should ask of them. However, on a school sports day I always  like to see every child go home with at least one ribbon for trying.

That is why I like the approach of so many sporting icons when they talk about their “personal best”. They may not always win a medal, but they have done their best – and will need to acquiesce. Life has its ups and downs and there are times when we must acknowledge this is “as good as it gets” and then just move on to another goal, another phase of life.

Dinner at dusk, Glasshouse Mountains view – as good as it gets!

Then what about our place of work. Many organisations have staffing awards, those certificates in a frame, I have a few of them. But how much do they mean to the workers? While many businesses, small and large are working out how to acknowledge employees, they need to look no further than Google. Google focuses on results not people, that is the results that people make happen. When they are happy at work people work to get results. At Google the staff receive incentives for their results such as insurance, health and dental benefits, on-site car wash, dry cleaning and the list goes on. There is flexibility in the workplace. As a Google employee I would be thinking this is probably “as good as it gets” and just get on with doing the job and enjoying it.

So, this brings me to think about who is directing our lives? Can I hear a resounding “we are”? Am I director of my life? Are you the director of your life? It can only be “as good as it gets” if we take responsibility for directing our own life story – our life movie. At this time of life, am I having the time of my life?

Matt having the time of his life, fishing. This must be “as good as it gets”.

Certainly, I am chief executive officer (CEO) of my retirement. But I have left out one critical element of my role – quarterly/yearly reviews? How am I going? Am I achieving my goals, my targets, so I can have a fulfilling life and enjoy the race? What results am I getting? Also, am I giving myself enough incentives to get on with life. A little retail therapy; the occasional week-end away; a holiday by the sea or lunch/dinner with friends. I will have to make a plan and reward myself for my results – noting, this could be “as good as it gets”!

At our place, what we have now is about “as good as it gets” and really it is not too bad. It is up to each one of us to make the best of life. It is up to me to make the best I can of my life, recognising that life is not a dress rehearsal, but the real thing! We only get one chance at it, one shot, no retakes like an actor when performing in front of a camera. Today I may say this is “as good as it gets”. Tomorrow though, with me directing my life it could be even better than good!

PS Football finals in Australia today. I am sure all teams will do their best, but only one team can win! I hope to see the Olympic spirit.

PPS – I saw the movie Ladies in Black this week directed by Australian Bruce Beresford. Many reviews I have read missed the meta messages – those about relationships, multiculturalism, encouragement and at the end of the day realising and accepting that this is “as good as it gets”.

Gender equality: secular and sacred

Gender equality: secular and sacred

When I think of gender equality I think of the juxtaposition of the secular and the sacred. There is now a conversation across political parties, in the media and community in Australia about gender equality. This has come about due to the low representation of […]

A Carnival of Flowers

A Carnival of Flowers

Spring is here and everywhere I look there is a Carnival of Flowers and Toowoomba is about to celebrate. Apart from a display of flowers Toowoomba has much to offer during the Carnival of Flowers a yearly festival event held in September. If you live in […]

Online habits – the subtle seduction

Online habits – the subtle seduction

Whether we like to admit it or not most of us have online habits. That is, what we do when we go online. How long we spend surfing the net. How long we spend on social media. If you have a business how long do you spend looking for marketing tips or inspiration? How long do we spend researching that new purchase? Yes, our online habits can control us if we are not aware of the seduction of the internet – the subtle seduction.

Why do I say seduction? Because technology lure’s us into its web. Most of us can’t stay away from it. Yes, even older people, over 65-year old’s, are seduced into the web also known as the World Wide Web (W3).

Therefore, I was surprised recently when out shopping the young attendant looked at my One&Only (O&O) and then looked at me and said “do youse have a computer” meaning she wanted to give us vital information about how we could order online – click & collect! First of I wanted to say “youse” is not a word but let that one go. Then, I wanted to say” I have a computer in my pocket, it’s called a mobile”. But took the polite response and said “yes, we have a computer”.  Doesn’t Generation Z know that even older people are seduced by W3?

Excuse me – my mobile is talking to me!

If you are like me, you are doing more shopping online. The convenience of online shopping is seductive. You can shop 24/7 and then have your shopping delivered to your front door.

When there are the big household items such as fridge/freezers or ovens I spend much time online researching the best product, looking at reviews and hoping that others experience will match mine once I choose the product.

It is better for us if we are at the beach, surfing – “between the flags” rather than surfing online. That is what I tell myself however the seduction is strong and before long I am either on my mobile or sitting at my computer. When I refer to surfing online I am not referring to the “dark web” or other online activity that is illegal or immoral. I am just referring to the convenience of going online and making our life easier. No need to leave the comfort of our home to shop, communicate with friends, check on the weather, research a subject, read a book, or exercise via YouTube videos. The seduction of the internet can mean we spend less time with people. But somehow, we convince ourselves we are spending more time with people due to our social media activity. We are seduced into thinking that this is the way life is.

But is it the way life is? Our online habits can have an impact on our physical and mental health. Too much sitting at a computer and not enough exercise. That is why I like my FitBit – it tells me when I need to move. Does it matter that FitBit or your Apple watch know all about your every move? However, there are ways you can protect your privacy. To find out, just spend more time online researching the way forward!

Then what about social media? I have taken steps to reduce the time I spend on social media, such as Facebook. It is very seductive, and I found I was often picking up my mobile and checking what was happening in the lives of others. People I have met and others I have never met! Then there are those I know but never see and don’t have a relationship with. When you think about this – does it make sense? The seduction is very subtle.

Then there are those who are seduced through online dating. They think they have found the person of their dreams when all they have connected with is a scam. Someone who wants to scam them of their money. The seduction is very real, and lives are destroyed all because of the subtle seduction of online habits.

Then there are children who are unknowingly seduced into an online relationship believing they have found a genuine person who is interested in them. All they have found is a person who wants to seduce them and rob them of their innocence. This is the “dark” side of online habits and dangerous for children’s welfare. Therefore, every parent should know about their children’s online habits and understand their online behaviour. My son grew up without a mobile and without a computer. He spent his time outdoors, riding his bike or skateboard or playing sports. It was a healthy lifestyle. The challenge for parents today is to get the balance between children’s online habits and their offline habits!

Now is time for me to think about my online and offline habits and make sure I get the balance correct. That may mean more time away from W3? What about you? How well are you managing your online habits and the subtle seduction of W3?

Fake honey

Fake honey

It is all over the news and everyone is talking about fake honey. Is one of Australia’s favourite honey producers fooling consumers? Capilano claim their honey is 100% honey. Who is telling the truth? We are yet to find out whether Allowrie Mixed Blossom Honey […]

Cook from scratch at home

Cook from scratch at home

It is a satisfying past-time, if you have the time, to cook from scratch at home. There is nothing like a home cooked meal. A meal that is made from scratch without all the preservatives, sugar and salt additives. You may have read my recent […]

The Happiness Thermostat

The Happiness Thermostat

At what level is your happiness thermostat? At what level is my happiness thermostat? How do we maintain a happy equilibrium in our lives and is it necessary? I know that I feel better about myself and the world around me if I feel okay – I am happy. That is, I am not feeling down in the dumps, or at least not for too long!

Emotions

As we all know how we feel, our level of happiness, fluctuates. We can feel sad. Life circumstances can cause sadness and sadness is an emotion that will come and go in life. Sadness has benefits as it allows us to work through a situation and come to terms with disappointment, grief and loss. Sadness as an emotion is okay if we don’t stay there. But I must differentiate sadness from depression. We can bounce back from sadness and feel happy again, but it is much harder to bounce back when suffering depression – sadness for no apparent reason. Depression affects our thinking, our perceptions and behaviour. That is why it is good to get professional help when depressed.

Life has its rocky pathways

Is positive thinking the answer?

Is “positive thinking” the answer to staying in the “happy” zone? Over the years I have had so many people tell me that positive thinking will change everything. That is, positive thinking is the key to happiness. One example of positive thinking was when we had our last home up for sale. While there was interest in the house nothing was happening, we had no offers. I was told that I needed to think more positively, and it would somehow magically happen. As I know and more than likely you know, life does not work like this. On another occasion we put our house on the market and without even one positive thought we had a contract of sale within three weeks!

Positive thinking is often the recommended vehicle to get us where we want to go in life – a life of meaning, fulfilment, success and happiness. Positive thinking is better than a negative mindset and while positive thinking is a good start, it is not the entire answer to a happy life. When I think back to when our house that was languishing on the market I firmly had the view that it was a timing matter. I believed the house would sell at the right time – I was optimistic. As it happened if we had sold the house months or a year earlier we would not have been in the position to buy the house we now live in. It was not for sale back then. It only came on the market after we had sold our house and patiently waited in our rental property.

I see the world as a big jigsaw puzzle. At times I must wait for the missing piece and for the pieces to come together before I can see the full picture. Waiting has never been one of my best attributes but now I am older I am more resigned to wait, rather than rush. With such an outlook my happiness thermostat threshold is more likely to remain stable.

Replacing positive thinking with optimism

Positive thinking and optimism are two different realities. Positive thinking can ignore reality – the facts of the situation. Whereas optimism is accepting our reality. All the “positive thinking” in the world will not change our reality. However, if we accept our reality, take steps to make changes if we don’t like our reality – this is a positive step forward. If you want to read more about this approach read what Dr Happy (Dr Tim Sharp) has to say about the subject.

Maintaining our happiness thermostat

Adopting an optimistic outlook on life will sustain our happiness thermostat at the right level. How does it work? If we are going through a bad patch in life having an optimistic outlook will give us hope and keep us buoyant for the journey ahead. That is, while we work out what to do and the changes we need to make. The characteristics of optimism start with gratitude – thankfulness for what we have. Then, holding on to hope in what may be a hopeless situation – gives us strength to change or accept our situation.

When the optimistic person has a setback, they see it as temporary. An optimistic person will manage failure differently to a person who believes positive thinking will change things. The optimistic person will want to learn from failures. Whereas the positive person can be in denial and believe positive thinking rather than decision-making and action will change circumstances.

Then there is the negative person who will want to wallow in their failures or blame others. Optimistic people don’t dwell on all the things that can go wrong in life. Mostly, they don’t expect things to go wrong! On the other hand, a pessimistic person will dwell on the possibilities of what could go wrong! Which is the wrong way to live a happy life!

Optimism is turning lemons into lemonade and seeing the glass as half-full rather than half-empty and believing that every cloud has a silver-lining. I find that looking at life from such a perspective gives me a better life – it sustains my happiness thermostat at the right threshold.

Finding too many lemons in life – make lemonade!

What about YOU? Do you have any ideas about what will keep our happiness thermostat at a threshold where we can live a full, meaningful and happy life?

Happiness and ageing

Happiness and ageing

Does happiness and ageing go together? Is everyone who is ageing – happy? Most developed countries have accepted the age of 65 years as getting older or “elderly”. If you, like me “just” over 65 years old you are a senior, an older person or […]


My Diary

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Does happiness and ageing go together? Is everyone who is ageing – happy? Most developed countries have accepted the age of 65 years as getting older or “elderly”. If you, like me “just” over 65 years old you are a senior, an older person or elderly! Whatever your age, everyone is growing older at the same daily rate. It is just that the person who is 20 years younger than me will never catch up to me. I like it that way – giving all the younger people the challenge of catching up! Is someone 20 years younger than me, happier than me? What does make us happy as we age?

Happy hour

The happy hour is popular with seniors, those over 65 years old. I have heard from friends who are part of the “grey nomad” caravanners that happy hour in the park is the place to be. That is, late in the day, around dusk, when people gather together and enjoy a drink. One of the problems with “happy hour” is that after about 45 minutes a sense of timing is lost, and happy hour can turn into “happy hours”!

But the “grey nomads” and other non-caravanning seniors don’t have happy hour all to themselves it is also popular with the millennials – those aged between 22 – 37 years. The millennials without children or very well-behaved children enjoy a more relaxed happy hour. This gives the millennial parents some winding down time after a demanding day at work. Every parent deserves at least one “happy hour” a day. However, for some parents they will have to wait until the children are in bed and asleep. But not so for the “grey nomads” and the “senior set” (older people at home)  who don’t have to worry about the patter of little feet! Yet, is having a “happy hour” everyday the conclusive answer to a “happy” life as we age? If not, what else will make us happy?

Can a partner make us happy?

Some people believe that having a partner will make them happy. As most of us know having a partner is not the solution to a happy life. Relationships are challenging. They need work and they need each person to give 100%. We cannot be defined by our partner, that is, how happy they are and their mood. But the fact is we are emotional beings and another’s reaction or non-reaction to us can affect our mood, can affect our emotions, how we feel about ourselves and others. Even the most positive person in the world will struggle maintaining a positive equilibrium if they live with a negative person. This type of person is very toxic in a relationship. However, we can’t fix the other person, all we can do is fix ourselves – get our happiness thermostat at the right level.

My “One&Only” celebrating his 80th Birthday. However, this was not the “one and only” celebration!

Does money make us happy?

Last Thursday night’s powerball lottery was won by two entries – two people. That is $50 million each. If these people were not happy two days ago are they happy now? The answer depends on their attitude to their new-found wealth. Wealth and happiness are not necessarily mutually exclusive. You can be wealthy and happy; wealthy and unhappy; poor and happy; and poor and unhappy. If I asked the question which one you would choose? Maybe – wealthy and happy? However, wealth can mean different things to different people. Wealth can mean having a great relationship and people in our lives that accept and love us (warts and all). If a little money is thrown in so that there is no worry about paying the bills, enough money to enjoy holiday retreats, perhaps even enough money to have others do all the mundane jobs at home, even better! But still, if we are wealthy enough, how do we keep happy?

Health and happiness

If we are happy we are more likely to be healthy. Physical and emotional illnesses can rob us of happiness. Awareness of our emotions when we experience an illness is the first step to maintaining our happiness. If I am aware of my feelings, thoughts and understand my behaviour than I am more likely to maintain my emotional health – keep my happy thermostat at the right level. If an unwanted illness arrives then sadness and depression can follow. Depression is common among older Australians. Therefore, it is a good idea to find ways to keep track of our emotional health.

If we notice more times of sadness and depression, then it could be time to get professional help to bring back the joy into our lives. Sometimes sad is okay when someone is going through a time of “grief and loss”. Getting support at times like this to work through sadness and loss will help.

I was talking to a neighbour this week who used to live and work on the land. He spoke of the impact of the drought on farmer’s emotional health. He experienced three of his neighbours commit suicide because of another drought years ago. Ensuring people get the right support at the right time is the key to a better future. Beyondblue is one organisation who is there for older people and others with depression and anxiety.

The Happiness Thermostat

What can we do to keep our happiness thermostat at the right level? This is a subject I am looking into this coming week. Identifying ways, we can keep our happiness thermostat at the right level sounds good to me!


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