How to Flourish – begin each day with clear intentions
Last weekend I thoroughly enjoyed the UK Bank Holiday. Three days of family time, great food, delicious wine and lots of house-jobs at The Barn. I didn’t hold back on the food front and the scales reminded me of that – not to mention the effect too many carbs and a break from my usual wheat-free diet has had on my digestion – ouch!
Do I regret it? Heck no! If there’s anything I’ve learned from my Journey to Joy so far this year it’s so savour these moments. But I do want to get back on track and thankfully I have the knowledge I’ve learned from being a NOOM Ambassador to help me do just that. Not to mention the incentive of our holiday to Provence with James Villas in a few weeks time!
It’s also perfect timing for me to be working through the latest inspirational book in my Journey to Joy series – The Flourish Handbook by Cheryl Rickman and to have discovered The Daily Greatness Journal – as they both focus on measureable change and clear intentions.
I feel truly blessed to have discovered so many wonderful books full of wisdom and inspiring words. But as I mentioned in this post following a particularly bad mama-fail moment, words are nothing without action and that’s where The Flourish Handbook excels.
The Flourish Handbook was written by Cheryl when she realised just how difficult it is to move from the written word to the doing bit. After her own personal life tragedy of losing her mother at 17 years old she and a decade of pursuing and achieving her dreams setting up and running her own businesses she started studying positive-psychology – the study of optimal human flourishing. As Cheryl told me:
“I wanted to write a book that carved the core pillars of well-being into an easy to read practical guide that could equip people with strategies and habits, whilst taking them on a journey to flourishing step-by-step, month-by-month. I was drawn to this topic because I had witnessed first hand how different approaches to life can have a huge impact on how we live it and what we get out of it. The idea for The Flourish Handbook was born.”
There are four parts to the handbook:
#1 Positive Emotion: enabling a more positive environment, generating more energy and harnessing the power of your mind
#2 Meaning Purpose and Engagement: creating meaning and purpose in your life, learning to optimise your experiences and finding your ‘sunshine’
#3 Positive relationships
#4 Growth and achievement: harnessing the power of gratitude, creating a vision and clear goals and focusing on action to get results.
Each of the twelve chapters within these parts is written in Cheryl’s friendly but authoritative voice with scientific evidence to back up the theories based on the learnings from her studies and the principles of flourishing – not just a feeling of happiness but a way of being. As Cheryl points out one of the forefathers of the ‘flourish’ concept Martin Seligman believes the word happiness is overused and that it’s just one element of a deeper level of well being.
“Flourishing is about more than simply feeling good, it’s about persuing and experiencing a better life; it’s about building and optimising well being.”
The handbook certainly is an easy-to-digest and very practical guide filled with actions that I’ve been taking straight away. Month one saw me decluttering our new office at The Barn for example and creating a special space to work in with my antique lamp and vintage desk – and a large cup of coffee of course!
In month two Cheryl talks about creating more energy by being kind to ourselves, getting enough sleep, exercising, creating a ‘chin-up-buttercup’ list of mood enhancers and other actions that focus on YOU. Exercise is already a central pillar in my life but I resolved this month to put a weekly yoga class firmly back into my planner as well as practising at home and I’ve replaced my first coffee of the day with a mug of green tea with lemon to cleanse my system. It’s amazing how simple actions like this can give you such a lift!
Chapter three is about focusing and decluttering your mind – I’m now keeping an emotions diary and identifying my trigger points for that spiral of impatience and negative thoughts that can hit me like a brick and whirl me right out of a good day. I’ve also challenged myself to do one of the exercises from the book – spending a week talking only about the bright side of things – no whinging, no complaining. It’s harder than you think!
Cheryl’s amazing and inspiring life story is woven through each of the chapters, bringing a personal element to the lessons she teaches through the book. I love that I can put into practice what I’m reading – even if it isn’t always easy. But what life-changing activities are, right?
Looking forwards to part 2 I’ll be taking a step back to look at the values and overarching mission of my life – wow that’s a BIG HAIRY concept that I want to take my time on!
Coincidentally at the same time that I discovered The Flourish Handbook I came across the Daily Greatness Journal and it felt like the perfect accompaniment as it also focuses on taking concrete and measurable actions and marking your progress.
Created by Lyndelle Palmer-Clarke this thick and beautiful journal is about consciously creating your days, identifying the important parts of your life and turning your attention to them everyday. Using an eight step process that includes visualisation, gratitide, inspired actions, intentions and evening power questions the journal encourages you to take action and then reflect back each day on what you’ve experienced, achieved and learned as a result.
Hang on, I know what you’re thinking – I don’t have the time for this! I felt the same. But perhaps it’s the focus on the minutiae of our lives, the I’ve-just-got-to-get-this-done-first and the in-a-minute-when-I’ve-cleaned-the-floor that’s the problem. If that’s what’s stopping us from having the time to focus on the really important things then if not now… when?
I’m thoroughly enjoying working through The Flourish Handbook and looking towards making a set of simple goals from the activities that I’ll be recording and measuring in the Daily Greatness Journal along with the inspirational tips I’ve already learned from Renee Davis’ Become the Best You, Oprah Winfrey’s What I Know for Sure, How to Cut the Crap and Feel Amazing by Ailsa Frank and Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford (the links are to my reviews of each of these fabulous books).
In the coming months I’ll also be sharing two more books as part of my Journey to Joy series – The Art of Happiness by HH Dalai Lama (recommended to my by Renee) and Beyond Happiness by Anthony Seldon.
But for now I’ll leave the final words to Cheryl:
“Ultimately, if I can help just one person feel less “hmpf” and more “yay”; less pessimistic and more appreciative; less hard on themselves and more proud of themselves… then I will feel like I’ve served my purpose and done what I am here to do; to enable flourishing so people can do what they love, love what they do, and better connect with others and the natural world, to live their best possible life.
Because life is short and precious and wonderful.”
And I really can’t put it any better myself.