Advice for the hard times

See I figure it’s like this. Life happens sometimes to us, or because of us. Challenges can come for no reason at all or it can be because of the other people around us or people who don’t even know we exist.

Yet what surprised me when working as a secretary in a mental health team was how differently people would react. That started me on a journey that meant I came to understand that it’s our thoughts that make the difference, and that our thoughts lead to our actions.

Which leaves us with choices. Faced with what today brings, we can worry about it, and let anxiety take away our peace, when we fail to reign our thoughts in and bring them back to the present moment. Or we can reframe the challenge as an opportunity – even if that opportunity is the growth of our soul, for we are always stronger than we think.

In the hard times, courage must often be beckoned quietly. To come on this journey with us, and counter what our brains are telling our heart it must believe. And then we choose.

We choose to look life in the face and say that though we are faced with some hard times, that doesn’t mean we have to face them with anger or frustration or pity or sorrow. We can choose to be cheerful – and in that choosing, find we are more cheerful. We can choose to be grateful for all we have in our life that is still good. We can indeed dare to be happier – and in the daring, find life is more than bearable. It is fully worth the living – hard times or no – for this moment is the life that we have to live. May “this moment” be peaceful, joyful, mindful xx


Dare to be happier – dare to imagine peace…

Stephanie Dowrick asks what peace might be…..and says….

Peace is a continuous act of creation.

Waking up to the reality that life is precious in all of its forms,
we come to see that we are guardians of one another and of the earth.

Seeing each other through the eyes of peace, we find compassion.
With compassion, comes trust.
With trust, comes openness.
With openness, come community, connectedness and joy,
and resilience in the face of sorrow.

Peace is not an absence of conflict.
Peace is the capacity to deal with conflict intelligently.

Peace is the deepest acknowledgment that every life matters.

Taste peace in your own mouth.
Feel the touch of peace on your own skin.
Let your ears fill with the sounds of peace.
Feel the longings for peace that fill your own heart.
Let your mind rest on the word peace.

Until we dare to imagine peace, we will never achieve it.

Open to what peace can bring to you and others.
Send peace wherever it is needed.
Without taking a single step from this place, your thoughts can encircle the world.


Choose a better future; choose love, not fear.


What happened in the past happened. It’s the stories we attach to it, how we interpret it, that move us forward or keep us stuck there. The same thing (more or less) will have happened to someone in the world at some point in history, yet they will have forgotten or forgiven it, or learned lessons that allowed them to teach and serve the world in a better way.

To be numbed by it, stuck in it, restrained or fettered by it is a waste of your own precious life. Pain and suffering are an inside job that create your outside life. Choose to let go, to tell your story in a different way that owns the experience but lets go the pain. Choose a better future, choose love, not fear.

Dare to be happier.

Pursuit of Happiness: an action call to dare you to self-love

This is a guest post by Magdalena Bak-Maier – Author, Coach, Talent Development Architect, Creative and Entrepreneur, who says daring to be happier means taking the time to fall in love with oneself and discover one’s true spirit. Please read on. Be blessed.

So many people go on about wanting happiness. What is it? How one finds it? Keeps it? As someone working with others to improve their lives, it is clearly something that I’m thinking about a great deal. I run seminars based on my book Get Productive! which concerns holistic productivity or a balance within life and work and that certainly links with happiness in a big way. My standard opening to this sort of work is always the same question. What are you really looking forward to in your work and life in the next 1-3 months? The question often proves harder to answer than one would assume initially.

In my life, at work I can really say I’m looking forward to Day 2 of a career accelerator programme I’m running with NHS nurses. It’s inspiring to see people reach for their dreams and take their fear with them to achieve better working lives, promotions, aspirations. And for us to journey together is something that defines all my leadership programmes. I’m equally looking forward to another programme for research leaders that will take this sort of journey into deeper domains of spirit, heart and inner truth next January. It is demanding but highly rewarding work.

In my personal life, I’m really looking forward to more walks in the country, seeing the leaves turn colours, accompanied by people I love and with whom I like sharing my thoughts and life. I’m looking forward to warm drinks at city markets this time of year, a cozy scarf and a bit of laughter but always true connection. And I’m looking forward to a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

There are others things of course in the 3 month landscape; and here’s the crux of it. Many things we do that really make us happy take planning. The trip needs train tickets that need booking, dates to be put aside, and a mindset of true curiosity, willingness to leave the city behind and give up a weekend to this activity. Only giving up is the wrong phrase as nothing about it feels like giving up. The heart yearns for the trip and the mind gets behind it.

Working with others on creating great lives whether professionally, personally or both, daring to be happy means knowing what that is or taking the time to work it out. This means listening to your heart’s whisper. The mind will fill you with many needs and shoulds and existing priorities but unless you honour your inner truth, time will slip and happiness erode with it.

 Give yourself time to simply be on your own.
 Get curious about activities that bring you alive and where you experience your best energy.
 Schedule activities in your diary that refuel you.

So what if you don’t know what really makes you happy? And it’s ok not to know by the way.

 Experiment by trying out different things to see what you like.
 Revisit your childhood or other happy times for clues to guilt free fun.
 Work with a professional counselor, therapist or coach to help you gain clarity.

Daring to be happy means taking the time to fall in love with oneself and discover one’s true spirit. This can emerge from being with others but sometimes it emerges best when we’re on our own. Noticing how that inner energy and spirit dances with work and life and where it burns bright and when it withers away. From the place of knowledge, action and practice happiness is no longer a goal. It’s a simple way of life. Dare to discover it. Dare to put it in action however small the steps may seem to start with. Dare to self love and live a happy life.

If you want more inspiration and practical advice you can:

• Listen to Magdalena’s TEDx talk on why following the heart is best

• Pick up and get to work with a copy of my practical book for getting results Get Productive

• Get in touch for 1:1 private coaching

• Begin your own leadership journey by enrolling in one of Magdalena’s leadership programmes. For programme brochure and upcoming dates e-mail:

• Follow Magdalena’s work and thinking on Twitter @maketimecountuk

Losing A Marriage Through Carelessness

forget me nots

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
― Joseph Campbell

Today, a tweet led me to an article called “16 ways I blew my marriage”:

Talking it over with friends later, they said you couldn’t just lose a marriage; it wasn’t like a soccer game (won by a stronger team) or a set of keys or a book (lost through carelessness).

But they were wrong. I know that you can lose any important relationship through carelessness; I also know that you can lose a marriage the same way. A marriage very rarely ends suddenly for no reason – it usually is death by a thousand knives, even if one of those knives is indifference. My first marriage officially ended when I left it for what I thought was the chance to be loved – but it had been dying for a long time.

It died through carelessness, when the person I was with forgot to cherish me and when they wanted me to be all that I wasn’t. I ended up trying very hard to be the someone my husband wanted me to be; and that had already had a shape and a name. He had found a friend, a soulmate, he called her while maintaining she was only ever a friend, who took over our lives and suffocated our marriage. He travelled a lot on business and would bring me home a present most times – but he always brought her one home too. He cooked fish pies and made little cakes for us – but always set aside some for her. He asked me why I couldn’t be like her, or dress like her or act like her – and I tortured myself asking why I couldn’t, while desperately trying to do what was asked, until I was exhausted being someone else.

They were dark days when I did not know I could dare to be happier. I stayed because my culture required it, because my beliefs insisted on it, even if those beliefs were sometimes second hand beliefs. With four small children, and a part time job, I kept spiralling down to a place where I could see no options and found I had lost my voice and become invisible. What could be seen brought envy from those who could not see – a beautiful mortgage-free house, £80k in the bank, a part time job and a busy social life. They could not see because I hid my heartache from all who knew me, and I hid myself by wearing ten ton masks of family life and hostess.

Living in a state of almost constant fear and anxiety, I lost myself. I lost hope in a place where I could see no options,where I shut my feelings down because that was less painful than knowing how they felt. I forgot what it was to be loved and could not dare to love myself, but when someone indicated that I might actually be a living, breathing woman, I leapt towards that spark of hope. In the process, I lost many many friends and much more. The leap was so vast it shook me so deeply that it would take almost a year before I could read more than a paragraph in a book again.

Louise Hay says that all that we do is driven by fear or love; I know this is true. I regret the way the marriage ended, and I regret that I stayed so long – yet I cannot fully regret this, because it forced me down the path that led me to my life today. That quote from Joseph Campbell is one of my favourites because I know the truth of it. I don’t know if I was willing to let go, but the letting go of the life I’d planned brought me to where I am now, with a life full of gratitude.

It’s a place where I dare to be happier! I’ve been surprised to find out what I might be capable of. I am blessed with a home that’s a haven, a great career, a part time coaching and training role. Where I’m surrounded by so many dear true friends, spiritual teachers and Anam Caras. My children have grown up and with their support I learned to swim, not sink, sometimes because I absolutely needed to provide for them, as I got so little financial support from their dad. They are as proud of me as I am of them.

In daring to be happier, I have had to make daily choices about how I think and what I do. In living authentically,I have learned from my mistakes – and I have learned to love and nurture myself and find my voice.

I have also learned that all I can ever be is me, and that’s just perfect. I have dusted myself off and polished myself up, and allowed myself (sometimes at least) to shine bright like a diamond. Diamonds come from ashes after all. I will not ever stand on a pedestal again, or allow others to put me there. I know too well how human I am – but as a human being, I long to be seen and loved for exactly who I am; we can ask for no more. To be loved carefully, to be cherished. Though I’ve known great pain and darkness in my life, I found that daring to be happier again brought all sorts of adventures.

It also brought me a special kind of love, perhaps because my now husband (Lee) is a very special kind of man. As I write this, he is away for a long weekend pursuing one of his hobbies – but I know he is thinking about me often. I know he loves and cherishes me because he will organise little gifts,and he texts and calls me when he is away, touching base little and often. Some people may not appreciate that, or find it corny; I am grateful from the bottom of my heart. Yesterday, I put my hand in my jacket pocket and found a small bar of my favourite chocolate waiting for me. Today, I got into my car and there was a beautiful winter plant sitting smiling at me. When I saw it, I burst into tears. Happiness Virus tears, he said to me later. Yes; these were good tears. Tears because I am loved for who I am and all that I could be. He will not lose our marriage through carelessness.

Vivere – Dare To Live!

Last night I was at a housewarming where I was introduced as a life coach and when asked what I “did”, I said I help people dare to be happier.  “No matter what is going on in your life, we could all be happier than we are right now; none of us is so sorted that we can’t make some changes in our lives that could make it better.”

Driving home this morning, I heard Lenny Henry talk about his “inheritance tracks” – one song he would pass on to others that he had inherited, and one song he himself would pass on.  He chose “Blueberry Hill” from his dad, saying his mum had passed on her sense of humour to him.  The track he chose to pass his daughter was Vide Cor Meum – – from the soundtrack of the second Hannibal film, where one song made him sit up in the cinema going “what IS that music”, and he went on to say that when his mother died he played it non stop.

It got me thinking.  My dad was a pipe major, and for many years I couldn’t listen to pipe bands at all, but it would be a song my mum loved called Rambling Rose that I would pass on, as it was so much a part of my childhood.  Wondering what I would pass to my children, I knew it would be one I loved that reminded them to live!  Two of my favourite songs are  Bon Jovi’s It’s My Life, or I Hope You Dance by Leanne Womack,  but as I listened to the song Lenny had chosen, I thought that while I loved these passionately, a song that touched their souls might be better.  And for me, that would have to be Vivere by Gerardina Trovato & Andrea Bocelli.

I have never ever heard that song sung in English, and never thought to translate it as I don’t speak a word of Italian apart from Ciao.  I had no idea what it meant, just loved the music – and that’s really unusual for me, as it’s nearly always the music AND the lyrics that matter to me.  I thought I would come home and google the meaning but got sidetracked by something I needed to do.  I went and got all my old journals, ripped the backs of them, and burned them all.  All of them, going back to 2006 when I last did this.  I knew it was time for me to move on, and yes there will be much wisdom in there, but there is a lot of pain too, and it was time to let that all go.  I took photos this time as the pages curled and words stayed clear like “Making waves.”  Then I went into my haven/office, searched for the translation, and promptly burst into tears at the miracle of timing – for this is what that song says:

Try looking at tomorrow, not yesterday,
and all the things you left
all those tender words you did not say
the gentle touch you
couldn’t find
In these days of nameless faces
there’s no one truth, but
only pieces
my life is all I have to give
Dare to live! Until the very
Dare to live! Forget about the past
Dare to live!
Giving something
of yourself to others
Even when it seems there is
nothing more left to

But if you saw on your doorstep
the man who sleeps in
cardboard box,
if you were to listen to the world
one morning without
the noise of the rain,
you, who can create with your voice,
you think the
thoughts of the people, then, about God, there is only one God.

has ever taught us how to live,
to live is not possible without the
to live is beautiful even though you
never asked for it;
will be a song
and someone to sing it.

Dare to live!
Searching for
that one true love
Why, why, why, why
do you not live tonight?
Dare to
You know what I’m talking of
Why. why, why, why
do you not live
Dare to live!
Until the very last
Why, why, why?
Life is not
Your life is all you have to give
Because you did not live it.
Dare to live!
Until the very last
Why, why, why?
Life is not
Your life is all you have to give
Because you never lived it.
will say no
I will say yes
Say dare to live!
Dare to live!

Drop The What Ifs

I alone cannot change the world. But I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. Mother Teresa

Some of the most disappointing news I read recently was  that Glasgow University had cancelled a planned Positivity Week after depression sufferers caledl it patronising.

That news was depressing in itself – and baffled me.  Out of 52 weeks in a year, just one of them couldn’t be focussed on positivity?  It was never about saying belittlting mental health issues, but depression is a mood and attitude, as much as positivity is.  Ask Frankl.

This was a week aimed at helping others find a way perhaps to see things differently, to try things on for size, to perhaps see light at the end of the tunnel. One of the people concerned said that it had been organised by people who had never suffered mental illness.  What nonsense – I have been depresssed before, I’ve been very anxious too,and stressed.  In 2006, my annus horribilus, I wrote this poem because of my own experiences:

My daughter recently read it to her eight year olds, saying it was really a poem for adults, and one little boy responded by saying, “No, for kids too. Children are afraid of the dark and stuff. They shouldn’t be so afraid.” And I thought yes – we live in fear so much of the time, when we could just dare to live a different way – and I now know there is a different way of living – and I choose that consciously every day of my life

As I thought about the reaction to the Positivity Week, I thought there will always be those who just don’t get the message that life could be different, just as there will be those who don’t want to change because that story is the one they are comfortable with.  Like the author of The Antidote, they only focus on what they want to see about happiness, and conclude it’s a ridiculous notion that we could dare to be happier.

If all I thought about was these people, I might freeze, conclude I’m wasting my time.  But if they don’t listen, who will?  All of us can dare to be happier than we are right now.  None of us is so “sorted” that we can’t do with a reminder or help.  But what if it is just the misfits, those on the edge of society, the lost, the helpless, the hopeless, the Eeyores of this world, the hurting and the downright difficult who come? And what if it is? Have I not been all or any of these at some point in my life?

What if it is? What IF it’s what I say or do that inspires them to change, that encourages them, that gives them hope, that  helps them help themself, that allows them to heal, nurture and love themselves? What a privilege that will be.

And WHAT IF if I DON’T do it?  What if there are those waiting to hear this message and I don’t act? What if the world doesn’t change for those people, when I could have been part of their journey, helping them to dare to be happier?

As YOU think about your purpose, drop the “what ifs” and just DO IT. What if YOU don’t do it, and those who are waiting still feel helpless, hear no hope, see no light at the end of their tunnel, and don’t dare to be free?

Project Me – 4/101 – I Need The Oxygen First

A better day today, in all-ways…

– walked to the train and back again, and Lee met me with Bailey on the way home

– had a lovely lunch hour catching up with friends instead of racing around like I too often do

–  cleared all my office drawers in preparation for our office move and de-cluttered in the process (always a nurturing thing to do)

– asked for help in making dinner and got a lovely chicken casserole made for me, and help washing the dishes without asking

– Made a note to myself to get a better umbrella so I can make sure my hair doesn’t start to go quite as frizzy given the amount of rain we are getting! Or else nurture myself by getting up earlier to wash my hair and make sure it’s rain-ready!

– chose a lovely salad for work/bought a packet of crisps (my previous downfall) and ate three & threw the rest out, asking myself how this was nurturing me

– although hungry, and with lots of time on my hands, walked through M&S looking at various things asking what would nurture me,and realised nothing would when I was going home to dinner – and treated myself to a coffee and a newspaper instead

The funny thing is that it’s seems to be catching.  My lovely husband (who does so wonderfully nurture me, when I let him) has treated me to a spa day and afternoon tea at some point in the future.  And one of the members of Team Caroline has changed phones to give herself a break from social networking too, as a way of nurturing herself.  I’m loving that! I’m loving that in me making this a priority for me, it IS like the oxygen theory.  On an aeroplane, if need be, the pilot will advise YOU to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping anyone else, as only then can you honestly help someone else… seems this nurturing malarkey might be the same.  By giving myself permission to do this, I am in some way giving others permission to do the same, so we are all happier.  Whoop!