I am done and I quit.
Things have been quiet over here lately, largely because I had no creativity left. Life has been busy and if you follow me on Instagram, you will know that I’ve been desperately getting through some books.
I lost my creativity and got busy. I also walked through a season of discouragement which took its toll.
We all find ourselves discouraged from time to time. Unfortunately, it’s normal. However, paired with a prolonged sense of circumstantial isolation, it becomes harder to intercept discouragement. One minute I was enthusiastically running towards all things social justice, faith and travel, and the next? You guessed it. I felt like my small impact just wasn’t making any change. I also found myself being confronted by heavy faith questions I didn’t have answers to.
It took me a while to recognise all of this as discouragement. In the moment, confusion wins and disguises the discouragement as something ordinary or acceptable. Yet when we label it, it becomes easier to intercept. Naming discouragement as discouragement frees us to reject it and press onwards.
Hence, I took some time to have healthy conversations with friends and mentors. I read books and found some good encouraging answers to my questions. I travelled to see some of my dearest friends who showered me with joy and strengthened me with encouragement.
Looking back, I can easily see so much good in the past season. Life has been so full! However, continuous discouragement can lead to a cycle of negative thinking and cynicism. I became so cynical.
Cynicism is the dangerous cycle of doubt and expectation of disappointment. It’s believing that everyone and everything is unfair or just out to get you.
I stopped looking forward to things. Suddenly I refused make plans and believe that restrictions would really be lifted. I became a negative thinker. Thoughts such as, ‘I don’t deserve this,’ or, ‘life wasn’t supposed to be like this,’ often revolve in a cynical thought cycle.
Cynicism, based on disillusionment, is draining and toxic. I quit.
Jennie Allen, wrote a brilliant book on interrupting various negative thinking cycles including cynicism. This is one of the books I’ve been busy reading and I recommend it to anyone looking for a practical yet biblical book on negative thought spirals! Find it here.
Cynicism causes us to look for things to complain about. “The opposite of cynicism is looking for reasons to give thanks.” (Jennie Allen)
I quit believing that I am a victim. I quit being discouraged. It’s time to believe that every circumstance contains an opportunity to experience goodness. I choose to rejoice. I choose to be encouraged.
Life is so full of blessings. Every day gives us chance to experience joy, wonder and fun. If we allow ourselves to stay curious and optimistic, we can truly make the most of our circumstances.
Choosing to think, ‘my circumstances are an opportunity to experience goodness’ in place of self-pity, positions us to be more thankful, more forgiving and ultimately joyful.
So, here I am, choosing to share some light today. Having worked through the cynicism and found myself in a joyful place once more, I encourage you all to remain thankful. I encourage you to quit discouragement by reaching out to others.
I had been believing for a long time, that everything was against me and the only way to thrive, was to forcefully survive. The truth? People, places and institutions often want to elevate, come alongside and help us!
There is however one disclaimer. Circumstances can be hard and I’m not saying that anyone in hardship is cynical or should just ‘get over it with some positive mantras.’ Nor am I saying that you have to settle with your circumstance.
If you’re having a hard time, reach out for help and do something about it whether that means seeking professional help or taking action.
However, as Jennie Allen so wonderfully puts it, ‘we don’t have to like our circumstances, but we can choose to look for the unexpected gifts they may bring.’ Reach out but also be open minded to the unexpected blessings.
For more book reviews, head to the Coffee Time tag. I’m hoping to start this back up, especially now that I’ve been reading more.
Got your coffee? Great lets go!
Whilst all previous Coffee Times have incorporated lessons learned from books, as we step into September I want to discuss visual media also. Over the past month I have encountered and experienced so many influential things however there was one spectacular and inspiring moment that stands above it all… Kynren.
Kynren is a 90 minute outdoor show directed by the Olympic ceremonies veteran, Steve Boyd engineering a cast and crew of 1500 volunteers to tell the story of the history of England, with a particular emphasis focusing upon the surroundings of County Durham. Starting at sunset, you are immersed in a timeline of tales complete with scenery, live animals, music and fireworks. It’s incredible and certainly indescribable. So indescribable that the best I can do to explain is link to the trailer, here.
But what was so inspiring? Kynren not only contains amazing visuals but also incredible lessons. First of all, stories and scenes transition fluently, all linking with the aid of large props and stage sets, hidden under a water reservoir ready to be elevated in time. Although I previously studied history, I have always struggled to piece together the whole time line of British History and the 29 scenes for me were that final Eureka moment. I found my mind was able to process all stories from monks, saxons, vikings… up until the first and second world war.
There was a valuable message amongst all of this. The show follows a young boy called Arthur, who travels in time through all of these generations and grows older as he transitions throughout them. He comes into contact with “the old Arthur” early on whilst still young and as he moves throughout history, he is counselled. The message? To learn from previous generations of leaders, lead your in present generation and make way for the new generation of strong leaders to come. The fundamental in all of this, is simply: let generations inspire you!
There have been some incredible forces of change in our country including Saint Cuthbert, Julius Ceasar, Shakespeare, Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill… All of these people we admire – but may we dig deep. Let us research them, read their stories and think about the things that they brought about. From this, may we hold onto the influences that we find, allowing them to raise us up as great leaders also. All historical figures came from ordinary backgrounds. Likewise, new generations will rise up – and we can be a part of that! Yet all generations must also step down – may we gracefully make way for the new, younger Arthur…
With this I ask, is there a historical figure that you admire? Why? How can they influence your decisions and actions? Or perhaps, could you learn something by digging in and being curious about a figure you’ve never really listened to?
Kynren is an old word meaning “generations.” So lets learn from Kynren this September!
We are back again for the third edition of Coffee Time! By now you should know what to do: grab a coffee and let’s get started!This month I had to choose Wilde Like Me by Louise Pentland. Whilst I’ve read other books this month as well, sometimes you can’t beat a good novel – especially when it hits number one bestseller! Besides, within this book you’ll find challenge, memory, fairy tale and a very important lesson to learn.
The book is incredibly easy to read and makes the perfect Summer novel – I couldn’t put it down. The main character is Robin Wilde who is a single mum to Lyla Blue. She starts out in a phase of sadness, insecurity and loneliness that she calls “the emptiness,” but gradually overcomes this by focusing on the happiness of her child. She goes on dates that fall, and lives in the fear that she isn’t a good enough mum, that Lyla is emotionally scarred from the parent break up and that all the “posh school mums,” are all secretly looking down on her.
I don’t want to give spoilers so I’ll skip past the middle and ending. Rather I want to share a very important lesson I’ve learnt by reading Wilde Like Me…
People are too busy thinking about themselves, to care about you. What Louise Pentland means by writing this is that often, we may think that somebody has a very low view of us, but in reality they actually look up to you. Rather than judging others they are too busy judging themselves. We all do it. Therefore we ought to have more confidence. In the book Robin Wilde spends so long feeling like a nobody when actually the school mums were admiring her the whole time! This truth is fundamental. Perhaps you often worry that your friends don’t really like you, that you aren’t good enough or that being different means social failure – wrong. It’s time we all said no to this voice inside us and held our heads high!
Power of Positive Thinking. Throughout the novel, Robin Wilde is portrayed as a motivated woman, battling with optimism. After bad days she starts afresh with a lot of positive thinking. What stands out the most is how she declares optimism: “today will be a good day,” “I can do this,” “This is a new day.” Even in her emptiness, Robin Wilde battles to climb up out of it. Whilst reading this novel, I had a bit of a bad day myself and inspired by this lesson, I put the power of positive thinking into practise. All day I told myself, “today is a good day,” and it completely changed my attitude – in fact I had one of the best days ever!
Wilde Like Me is such a wonderful novel! I can’t help but feel proud of the main character Robin Wilde and I have learnt some incredible, much needed lessons. In my opinion, everyone should give it a read! If you find yourself in the same boat as Robin, feel a bit stuck in your current phase of life, or not, it’s a great eye-opener into the struggles of a single mum as well as a kick-ass pick me up full of motivation and encouragement!
Have you read Wilde Like Me? What have you learnt in your own reading?
P.S. Buy Wilde Like Me here
Ready for our second monthly Coffee Time? This month I challenged myself to do a lot more reading. One book particularly stood out as interesting, informative and a little intriguing. So let’s grab a coffee and get right into it…
We Are What We Think by Jame Geary is an excellent introduction to the lives and principles of many famous philosophers. The book details a range of mini-biographies that are centred around the aphorisms written or spoken by such philosophers. In fact the book is described as “a journey through the wisest and wittiest sayings in the world.”
Unfortunately before discussing it’s successes I must criticise a few things. I realise that I am no philosopher however in the first chapter of the book, Geary outlines the principles of various religious prophets / preachers in order to give a grounding to the later aphorisms. Within this, I found that Geary is quick to look at something and make some bold assumptions or statements. Some of the interpretations of Jesus’ words were far from an accurate representation of the Christian faith. Consequently, I found myself reading sceptically through the remaining book.
Despite this, I still couldn’t quite put the book down! It’s set out in chronological order and since it’s composed of mini-autobiographies, it’s really easy to digest. I had never really looked into philosophy before and I found the structure brilliant for a beginner. It’s not all religious prophets either – Dr Seus even gets a mention!
Today I want to share 3 aphorisms from the book:
- It is the greatest of all inconsistencies to wish to be other than we are. Arthur Schopenhauer was a genius and reasoned that happiness can’t be based on risky possessions but rather on personality. “It is a harmony which produces an agreeable and rational character; and for the simple reason that everything which makes the man and gives him his mental and physical qualities is nothing but the manifestation of his will; is, in fact, what he wills. Therefore it is the greatest of all inconsistencies to wish to be other than we are.” Although Schopenhauer concluded from this that life is mostly misery and that we should expect no victory in a personal growth battle, I myself find this has the opposite effect. Such an aphorism reminds us that we are who we are, and therefore should not look to the right or left, wishing to be someone else. It reminded me of our journey to be distinctive and to become the person that we wish to be.
- Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve. Benjamin Franklin founded the first public library, demonstrated that lightning was a form of electricity and invented bifocal glasses. He was a man of many virtues including “resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.” This completely caught my attention: I am a firm believer in performing to your very best whilst ensuring that what you are doing is good, and has a beneficial effect. Reading this during exam time was particularly relevant – I resolved to study as best as I could and sit exams without failing to do justice to my ability. It has moral with “what you ought,” and reminds us to consider the effect that our actions have upon the world around us.
- Insist on yourself; never imitate. Ralph Waldo Emerson has been referred to as “the prophet of nonconformity.” For some reason this idea of insisting upon yourself captivated me, perhaps reassuring and acknowledging that being your own individual isn’t always easy but that it’s what we are obliged to do. Another of his aphorisms is, “It is easy to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” Encountering crowds is something that our modern society knows full well and this is an excellent reminder of the importance to enjoy the presence of others, yet still hold onto our own virtues, looks, opinions. It can be easy to either follow the crowd or refuse to associate but as Emerson rightly pointed out, what truly brings success is to achieve a perfect balance.
I have definitely enjoyed reading around some of the wisest and wittiest sayings in the world! It has it’s limitations but if you want to read something that constantly causes you to stop and think, this book is for you!
I hope you enjoyed this second coffee time! What have you be reading recently?
Say hello to a brand new series on Distinctivemode! Previous to relaunching this blog, something I was never able to share was my love for reading. Yet it’s reading and learning that has been a major influence upon journeying with Distinctivemode, as well as developing my character. One of the first things that I did when I sat down to think about what I wanted to change, was find a way to incorporate these influences and affairs.
I came up with “Coffee Time.” Coffee time is a monthly opportunity to sit down, grab a coffee, and discuss what we have been learning. Personally, this will be a chance to review the books that I have read, the world affairs that have perhaps taught some valuable lessons or simply words that have inspired. It’s a time set aside to reflect upon the things that have captivated us, shaped us and enlightened us. For learning is valuable – discussing what we have learnt in forums even more so! It’s a chance to celebrate our influences!
Grab a coffee and let’s get started!
This month I have journeyed through the awesome, inspiring and intellectual autobiography by Chris Hadfield titled, “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.” To this day I have never read anything so informative, intriguing and influential (aside from the bible of course!). In summary the book walks us through Hadfield’s career as an astronaut: his first tip toe steps, his setbacks, space flights, and small neutral moments.
I want to share three points from this book that stand out completely as inspirational:
- Dream’s are possible. This seems like such a cliche but immediately I can reassure that this in no such thing. Hadfield starts his book with a flashback to his childhood, 1969, when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. From that moment, 9 year old Chris Hadfield set his heart upon becoming an astronaut. However from day one he knew that it wouldn’t be easy – he never spoke a word about this dream to anyone knowing that he wouldn’t be taken seriously at such a young age. Instead he set his mind upon doing whatever he thought may prepare him for space should the opportunity arise. This started small, by simply asking, “would an astronaut eat vegetables or potato chips? Sleep in late or get up early to read a book?” later leading to pilot training and a degree in mechanical engineering. He sweated the small stuff – just in case. When the opportunity did arrive, he was as prepared as he could be, providing him with the very best chances – and he made it! It took years of “just in-case” preparation, but he succeeded. Reading this has motivated me to never waste a moment, to constantly question and to always be looking to learn more! Then I may be ready to run at all the opportunities and adventures that present themselves in the future!
- Aim to be a zero. Throughout his book, Hadfield refers to a personality scale, centred around a neutral. Simply put, you can either be a -1, 0 or +1. The minus one is somebody who causes setbacks, brings negativity and who is simply no use to a task in hand. The plus one is everybody’s goal however in reality, those who make themselves known as a +1 genius, contributing massively and standing as most important, often end up being seen as a -1. Nobody likes a self-obsessed personality. Zero however, is completely neutral. They neither add to a situation nor detract. They balance the scales. For example in space, a zero astronaut neither mistakenly reduces progress, nor acts arrogantly, controlling all advances. Effectively a humble zero will be seen as a plus one – but only because they have aimed to be a zero. This lesson has humbled me to aim to be zero in all that I do.
- Coming down the ladder – reading this book unleashed such a passion and interest into space exploration! There is a whole universe out there full of stars, galaxies and wonder. Reading about Hadfield’s experiences and the small quirky changes to life in the ISS fascinated me greatly. So much so that I found myself dreaming of going to space myself – as a British Woman with poor eyesight and no flying skills/scientific degree what so ever, I have extremely slim chances! But as he concludes his autobiography, Hadfield discusses his retirement. As an astronaut he found his job roles changing often, and more often than not, this involved climbing down the ladder, rather than up. Something Hadfield mentioned towards the end of his book, is that he had to learn that his time in space was over and that he had now accomplished his dream. But that didn’t mean that he should be fearing, “what if that was all there is?” It really made me think – we may not have the same once-in-a-lifetime opportunities as everybody else, but there is always joy in the small things! I will never get to space myself but I can still fuel such an interest through books, research and artistic exploration! One day like Hadfield, I’ll unknowingly experience the best of my days. That doesn’t mean the rest of my life will no longer be valuable – every moment is precious!
I cannot recommend this book enough! If you want a little motivation to run at your dreams, some tips on achieving success or simply an insight into what life in space is really like – from toilets, to research, to spacewalks – then this book is definitely for you! You wont be disappointed!
I hope you enjoyed the first of our Coffee Time explorations.
What have you been reading, learning or thinking about this month? Let’s discuss below!