My Best Books & Video for Inspiration & Courage

By Dr Kate Little 

Gone are the days when we stayed in the same job for 20 years. So many of us now change jobs and even entire career a few times over the course of our professional lives.

Many of us combine several jobs in our working lives, known in some circles as a “slasher” career. Not to be confused with horror movies, this term describes the ‘slash’ in the job title of someone who is a X/Y/Z – or journalist/web editor/PR, for example” or the shedding of 9-5 working and one career for life.

Re-invention has become commonplace as we strive to find the balance between work and home life. So, here are some of the books, videos & TED talks that have inspired me in my re-invention journey and given me the courage to take a leap…

 

Books

  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. This book is amazing. Brene Brown is amazing. Watch her TED talks to get a feel for what is in her. Daring Greatly is about throwing off our armour and showing up in the arena. She shows us how we can embrace our vulnerability and use it as a strength.
  • 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey. This bestseller is not light reading but is truly inspirational and forms the basis for so many self-development books. The “habits” are all common sense but the way he illustrates them is incredibly powerful. He emphasises the importance of discovering your authentic self and living your life as closely to this as possible.

    The 7 habits are:

    • Be proactive
    • Begin with the end in mind
    • Put first things first
    • Think win-win
    • Seek first to understand and then to be understood
    • Synergise
    • Sharpen the saw
  • Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.  Full of interesting observations about women in the workforce, this controversial book talks of careers as “jungle gyms” which allow “great views for many people, not just for those on the top” as compared to a career ladder where “most people are stuck staring at the butt of the person above”. Many traditional careers are typical of this as we wait for people to retire or move on to further progress our own careers.I like Sandberg’s analogy. I picture a more exciting creative path. One where you follow your interests and passions. One that is flexible, where you can swing or jump from one thing to another as the desire or need arises and, very importantly, where there is opportunity to take rest in the shade when needed.
  • The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. Not a book for when you are feeling low – it looks at how every decision you take however small matters and the importance of discipline and healthy habits. I listened to the audio CD very quickly. It is fairly repetitive but illustrates the core message above effectively.
  • What should I do with my life? Po Bronson. I have not read this yet but this has been highly recommended by so many people to me. It has been described as a “fascinating account of finding and following the people who have taken the ultimate challenge of self-discovery by uprooting their lives and starting all over again.”

Inspiring TED talks & You-tube clips

  • Steve Jobs address to Stanford – the 3 important things in life: connectivity (seen retrospectively), love and living each day as your last. Watching this was transformational to me. The concept that people could possibly be wanting to do their job if it was their last day bewildered me completely. I knew absolutely that I would not be doing my job if it was my last day, last month, last year or last few years. Clearly, I needed to make a change!

  • Brene Brown on shame and on vulnerability. This woman is absolutely amazing and so inspiring. A MUST for all who are questioning themselves or unhappy.

 

If you have any resources that you think that others would find useful please do add them into the comments section below or contact me here.

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podcasts IS

What I am listening to now

I love stories. One of the greatest privileges as a doctor is to listen to people’s stories. Each person we see has their own narrative and interpretation of the world. The podcasts that I want to share with you today are really just stories of people’s lives and how they got to where they are.

  1. How I built this with Guy Raz

Big thanks to Vanessa Nourtier for  introducing me to this. Guy Raz interviews famous entrepreneurs who have set up well-known brands such as Linked In, Instagram, AirBnB, Ben and Jerry’s, Zumba and Patagonia. Many of these have social purpose at their core. He delves into how they did what they did and why. It is totally fascinating and inspiring.

2. Desert Island Discs with Kirsty Young

The brainchild of broadcaster Roy Plomley, this was first aired in 1942  and celebrated its 3,000th episode in November 2014.  Castaways pick their favourite eight songs, a book and a luxury item and talk about their lives. There are too many big names to list – Sue Perkins, Guy Garvey, Bruce Springsteen and Demis Hassibis are amongst my favourites that I have listened to recently.

3. Sidehustleschool with Chris Guillebeau

With some intriguing titles such as 50 Shades of Grey inspires Bedroom Hustle, author, Chris Guillebeau, best known for his bestseller The $100 Start-Up,  interviews people who have successfully turned a hobby or opportunity into a successful business without quitting their day job. As he says:

“Starting a side hustle is like “playing entrepreneurially” without making a huge commitment. The stakes are low and the potential is high.

 

If you have a podcast that you’d like to share please do contact us.

poppies funeral IS

Mind full or Mindful?

All too often we are swept up in our busy lives, rushing from one activity to the next. We operate on autopilot; our thoughts taking control whilst we clean our teeth, brush our hair, take a shower; not really being aware of what we have just been doing.

In one of his talks, John Kabat-Zinn asks the audience an interesting question:

“How many people do you have with you in your shower?!”

I don’t know about you, but I for one, am rarely alone. My virtual notepad is always with me plotting and rehearsing my tasks for the day. Friends, family and colleagues frequently pop by as I think of all the conversations and messages they require. Or I revisit and agonise over an interaction with someone, which hasn’t gone as well as I would have liked. I am mind full. 

Most of us spend much of our day absorbed in the personal narrative of our lives. We may worry about the future or obsess about the past. We rarely spend time actually enjoying and appreciating the now.

Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment. Feeling the drops of water on our heads as we take our shower. Noticing the tingle in our skin as we massage shampoo into our scalp.

It takes us outside our thoughts, outside that narrative that it is all too easy to get trapped in. And importantly, it allows us to gain some headspace to free up our thinking and perhaps think about some of our problems more creatively, or with a more positive mindset so that they feel less overwhelming.

What can mindfulness help us with?

There is a good evidence base for its use in depression and, more recently, anxiety. It is not a panacea for all problems – it is not appropriate for severe depression, alcohol and drug problems and psychosis. Some studies report it as being as effective as medication, with less side-effects.

Evidence also suggests that mindfulness might help us manage stress better at work.

In addition, research is being conducted into the benefits of mindfulness in schools, after reports from short-term studies of improved psychological wellbeing and attention.

How can I practise mindfulness?

Some people are put off by the thought that you have to sit still and meditate, but this is not necessarily the case.

In the many definitions of mindfulness, some highlight the importance of focussing internally, on our thoughts and body, and some on paying attention externally to what is going on around us, and some on both.

Focussing externally, by being curious, taking notice and appreciating the beauty of the things that surround us can really help us be in the moment. The vibrant colours and unexpected warmth of a sunny autumn day for example.

Or simple objects in everyday life that we normally would pay little attention to, that we sometimes see in a different light, marvelling at them in wonder as if noticing them for the first time.

The Book of Life’s chapter on Appreciation talks about a French writer from the 18th century, Xavier de Maistre, who was wounded in a duel and confined to his bedroom. He recorded a mock-serious journal “A voyage around my bedroom” in which he looked at familiar objects in his room such as a chair and the window as if they were “remarkable novelties”, and this brought him great joy. He came to realise that:

“The key to existence is not to seek out what is actually new. It is to bring a fresh mindset to what we already know but have – long ago – forgotten to notice.”

This focus externally to me represents a kind of mindfulness in action. It does not necessarily involve sitting on a mat or chair. You can be very much be awake and moving, but rather than doing on autopilot, you are fully aware and in the moment.

Focussing internally is about becoming aware of what is going on inside: the sensations in our body and our thoughts. Watching our thoughts as one might observe clouds passing – there’s planning, there’s worry, there’s the critic – helping us to see our thoughts as weather patterns that come and go. Accepting them, rather than fighting them. They, like our moods, will pass.

This can be done in a formal meditation sitting still, alert and aware, allowing the mind to focus internally, but can also be done moving in activities such as mindful walking, Qigong and yoga where the focus is on the breath and/or the body. 

Integrating mindfulness into everyday life

This is my challenge. Mindfulness requires practice, like most things that we do. We know that to keep fit, it’s best to work out regularly, and this is the same for mindfulness. We need to practice regularly to train our mind like we would our muscles.

Ways we can do this are to:

PAUSE

Stop briefly for a few seconds throughout your day. Take a few breaths and notice what is present in your body and your mind.  Small coloured stickers placed on objects around your house/place of work act as cues to pause.

Take a three-step breathing space (3 minutes)

This is a quick meditation that can be done sitting or standing. I use it to unwind or if I am feeling overwhelmed by everything I need to get done, to re-energise and de-clutter.

Do formal practice (10 minutes)

Using an app such as those mentioned below, or some guided meditations such as those here. Some of these are seated. Some are moving.

Simply take notice.

Pay attention – what is here, now? Be curious. Like our French writer, we may start to appreciate those small things in life by seeing them differently. Practising #3 Good Things can help with this.

Mindful listening

Concentrate on listening and engaging rather than letting our minds wander or think ahead to what we are going to say next.

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There are many ways to become more mindful and less mind full. Writing this has inspired me to re-engage with my regular practice. I know that it makes a difference!

“Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”

William James (American philosopher & psychologist)

Gill Johnson of Mindful Elephant is running an 8 week mindfulness course at East Horsley village hall starting Tuesday 24 April 7-9pm. Cost £225 reduced to £200 to HH subscribers. Contact Gill atgill@mindfulelephant.com or on 07785 921950 now to book or if you would like more information. 

Resources

Books

There are many books about mindfulness. Two that I have found useful are:

Finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams & Danny Penman. This has an 8 week course that you can do using a CD and the book. I have completed it and cannot recommend it highly enough.

Sitting still like a frog by Eline Snel (mindfulness for kids). I have tried this when teaching in schools and on my own children. They really love it, finding it very calming and relaxing. It starts to give children an awareness of their bodies and the changes that can happen depending how they feel. They learn to use the breath as a means of grounding themselves.

Apps