Willing to change

Sometimes our approach to things is daft and unhelpful.  For instance, for a bunch of years I tried staying awake super-late and then greeting the new day before the birds. I thought I’d get more done. But my only rewards were fatigue and melancholia.  

A client of mine, similarly shortsighted, was convinced that an affair would add a dollop of steaminess to his sedate domestic life.  But the charm and allure wore off and he was left with a sexual infection and a pricey divorce.

This week I worked with a lad who is adamant that it’s ok to call his school teacher the rude name for a vagina. He also says that methamphetamine is “practically a herb”. 

From your position it might be tempting to sit back and mutter, “What were they thinking? Everyone knows that sleep is vital, that teachers should only be called rude names out of earshot, and affairs are for the brainless and dazed; hasn’t he seen Fatal Attraction?"  But I’ll bet if you poke around a bit you’ll be able to hark back to a time when you made a dumb choice or two, too. 

Dr Thomas Gordon, one of my therapeutic heroes, created 6 tips for avoiding disastrous decisions.  He said:

  • Reflect on your needs 
  • Brainstorm all of the possible ways you can meet your needs (be ridiculous, it helps with creativity)
  • Weigh up potential payoffs against any drawbacks
  • Choose an idea that meets your needs and is caring of others too
  • Implement the plan
  • Revisit the situation to see if you’re getting the results you hanker for.

With respect and love,


As much use as half a scissor

Time after time I meet people who are afraid to share their quandaries.  Keeping problems to ourselves is about as much use as half a scissor and causes a lot of suffering. 

Recently I was visiting a pal and she lamented, “Keeping house is hard for me, my brain just doesn’t seem to be wired for it.”  I muttered, “I really like organising things, it makes me super happy, can I help you get sorted?” It was hard for her to say yes.  I could tell, partly because I have 20 years of training in communication and also because she said, “It’s very hard for me to say yes to your help.” But she opened her heart anyway and we’ve spent several days sorting and donating and cleaning.  She has a new baby so I hold things up, she points to the correct pile and baby sighs and sleeps.  It’s an awesome arrangement for everyone. 

Years ago I read a piece of research that completely changed my view on asking for help.  Scientists discovered that when we allow someone to be kind to us they receive an amazing flood of happy hormones. To make the exchange even more wonderful, you, the receiver snaps up an avalanche of happy hormones too!  Isn’t that swell?  But there’s more!  Anyone that witnesses the exchange gets a boost of joy too!  Life doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

Now, I’m not advocating snivelling and moaning about things we can’t change like Donald Trump’s comb-over. But when we have a fair dinkum dilemma it’s worth partnering with a trusted buddy to map our way forward.  And there’s no need to feel bad about it because they hit the chemical mother load when you accept their help.  Imagine what would happen to sales of anti-depressants if we gathered around the sad folk and said, “Would you mind giving me a hand?”

With respect and love,


Our potential to alter anything

When we want to influence human behaviour few of us think about changing the physical environment.  If our children are hollering in the car on the way to the football it is likely that we will ponder ways to change them, not their world. 

However research shows that changing our setting is a profoundly effective way of altering what we do. For example, a recent study demonstrated that sales in family dining tables are dropping and at the same time we are experiencing a parallel rise in family dysfunction.[1]

Our humble microwave is to blame.  This pesky appliance has made it easier to serve individual portions of food and this means that we no longer gather with our tribe for the evening meal. As dining tables disappear so does a precious ritual that brought folks together.

So, when it comes to creating a strategy for change, considering things is a powerful opportunity. If you hanker after trim abdominals, hire a personal trainer. If eliminating sugar floats your boat, remove it from the house. If your dream is to deepen your connection with the family, buy a dining table. For me, I am contemplating buying a bus or installing a DVD player in my car for our next journey to the football…  

With deep respect,


[1] Patterson et al, Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, McGraw Hill; 2008; p 238-240

Where am I?

I don’t know about you but I often find myself thinking about a whole host of ludicrous things when I could be focusing on the task at hand.

For instance, this morning I went to yoga and while I was being an “eagle” and a “downward-dog” my mind leapt about like a spring lamb: I planned what to make for tonight’s dinner (olive frittata), I thought about being a Brownie Guide and getting my cook’s badge (a peak experience), I remembered nursing my mother while she died of cancer (wretched and beautiful), I imagined that the bird outside the yoga room was sent by God to say hello (amusing), and I hoped I wouldn’t pass wind (spooky, but at least it brought me back to the yoga mat).

We can really lose our marbles if we allow our minds to run away with themselves, can’t we? And this is the reason we need to cultivate our capacity for engaging with the present.

  • When we are washing the dishes and we start questioning God’s decision to separate Tasmania from the mainland, we can come back to the dirty baking tray.
  • While we are weeding we can plan our next Tupperware party or we can experience the temperature and fragrance of the soil.
  • If we are cut off in traffic by a bearded woman riding a motorbike, we can feel the weight of our body on the car seat and seek solace in our breath.  (Or we can plot revenge - perhaps something involving chainsaws and a 44 Magnum?)

Apparently the Buddha was a huge fan of living in the present moment.  He said:

Do not pursue the past.

Do not lose yourself in the future.

The past no longer is.

The future has not yet come.

Looking deeply at life as it is

In the very here and now,

The practitioner dwells

In stability and freedom.

We must be diligent today.

To wait until tomorrow is too late.

Death comes unexpectedly.

With respect and love,



Most things don’t just happen to us. Many times we have some sort of early warning, alerting us to impending danger.  For instance:
  • It is rumoured that your new Beau, Brian is an unbridled philanderer
  • Helga comes home later and later with dilated pupils and enough track marks to host the Indy 500
  • Small children run a mile when Uncle Gareth is near
  • We tell ourselves that the lump in our breast is nothing
  • Paul calls you the rude word for a vagina when you’re late to dinner
  • Ralph’s cheque bounces, again
  • During speed dating, Pattie says she likes tipping people out of wheelchairs and stomping on kittens for fun

Our external warnings are supported by our gut feelings, inklings, suspicions, premonitions and hunches. They are designed to give us time to adjust our trajectory. I call them red lights because they summon us to stop and draft a new plan.

Sometimes, to our peril, we ignore these precious cues and clues. We disregard lipstick on the collar, stay quiet in team meetings and avoid saying, “You cannot be trusted.” 

However, folks who triumph in the game of life accept the signal to act. They don their super hero outfit and do what is required, even if it means causing a scene.

What hot leads is life showing you?

With respect and love,



Our energy makes everything that is important in life possible. We need physical replenishment, mental arousal, relationship mastery and spiritual refreshment for a contented life. 

What can you do today to stimulate a wellspring of zeal?

(Source: libertycoaching)

A face like a bulldog chewing a wasp

Katherine Knight was the first Australian woman to be jailed for the term of her natural life.  You have to be peculiarly grim and detestable to be incarcerated forever in my country.  Usually we can sell drugs to children, steal oodles of money and manhandle ladies and get away with it.

But Katherine liked to push the judicial boundaries and stabbed one of her husbands thirty-seven times.  Afterwards she wholly skinned him and hung his ‘suit’ in the doorway of their lounge room. Then she oven-baked his buttocks and boiled his head in a soup pot with an assortment of root vegetables. The judge said her crime was “beyond contemplation in civilised society” so she’s been jailed for eternity.

When I read about Katherine in the newspaper, I declared to my husband, “She reminds me of my grade one teacher. Mind you she didn’t boil our body parts on a stovetop but she was super-mean and had an unfortunate face - she looked like a bulldog chewing a wasp. She used to belt us across the back with her one metre ruler. Those were dark times for me, honey.” 

Katherine and my teacher got me brooding over the ways we foster meanness.  I, for one, could fill a book with tales about my miserable, unruly behaviour.  Eons ago a boy invited me to the cinema but when we got there I said something like, “I’m just dashing to the toilet, be back in a jiffy” and I utterly deserted him. Another day I filled a paper bag with dog poo and set it alight on my neighbour’s porch.  I could go on but I won’t, in case I end up with zero friends.

But once I was studying psychotherapy, my teachers encouraged decision makers to consider ‘self, context and other’ whenever we make a choice.  

Now if we explore Katherine Knight’s attempt to turn her hubby into a winter stew it is pretty darn obvious that she was bat-shit-crazy and didn’t think about him for a second.  But if she’d been sane enough to ask, “I wonder how Mr Knight will feel about being chopped apart?” she might have come up with another way to meet her needs.  Likewise, if I’d stopped to consider what it would be like to have a date disappear without saying goodbye I could have saved him from confusion and me from shame. Also, the wasp-chewing bulldog might have kept her ruler for rulering and I might have placed the poop in the compost. 

Sometime in my marriage I was asked out by another man.  He was very alluring and hung on my every word like people do when they want to charm your knickers off. I considered him for a moment and then I thought about my husband (other), our marriage (context), my integrity (self). And I didn’t flirt with danger for long.

Clumsy, mean and regretful behaviour almost always starts with careless thinking. 

With respect and love,


Mental Gymnastics

Last week I went to a handful of exercise classes. (I make myself move so I can be hardy enough to hold my own in a wrestle and fit in to one seat on planes.)

Anyway, one coach was very chirpy and playful.  He arrived with a portable disco light and said, “I hope y’all enjoy the class, I feel very fortunate to be here.” He included card games in our workout and gushed encouragement. He was chummy and cordial from beginning to end.

Instructor two was not the same. He shuffled in eating yoghurt and wore a hood over his head.  It looked like the Grim Reaper was making a dairy commercial. He turned to us and said, “I’m really tired but at least I get paid to be here, I can’t believe you hand over money for this.” He tried to turn on the cooling fans which required coaxing and he said, “These fans hate me.” I sat there thinking, “I hate you too.”  

For most of us there’ll be times when we’re all rosy and chipper and lit up like Christmas trees.  In other moments we’ll behave like the love children of Ivan Milat and Ursula the Sea Witch.  But we can learn to control the swings by pausing to ask, How would I like to be remembered? It takes a smidgeon of self control to ask the question but it helps put the brakes on unruly behaviour.  

For instance, one day my young lad was being all fancy and creative and the craft paper I’d laid in front of him was, unbeknown to me, insufficient for his artistic gifts.  Keenly searching for more innovative ways to use his imagination he drew a picture on my new curtains. He proudly showed me the stylish drapery and said, “It’s a bottom with eyes, I drew it for you, I knew you’d really love it.”  I wanted to retort,”Do you know how much those curtains cost? When you have a house you can draw all-seeing-arses over the window coverings but not here, you dummy!” And then I wanted to wail like an opera singer because I was sure that the curtains mattered more than life itself.  But then a miracle occurred; I looked at his enchanting face, all majestic and kind-hearted, and I heard him sigh with contentment and I was smart enough to ask myself, “How do I want him to remember me?" and instead of calling him a drapery murderer I told him, "Tell me about the amazing picture."  Now, this doesn’t mean that we totally skipped the conversation about appropriate artisanship but I didn’t growl or lecture and I avoided humiliating him. 

How do you want to be remembered? It’s a good question, eh?

With respect and love,