Forget Resolutions, Aim for Flow.

 Throw out those IMG_8069 (2)New year’s Resolutions today!

You know, I know, we all know: they don’t work.

Try something new this year:

Allow 2015 to be filled with countless moments  of deep joy.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

How can you achieve this?

Before we explore that, let’s look at the difference between pleasure and enjoyment.

Pleasure is the instant gratification we look for to compensate for the daily grind that we experience. We experience pleasure when we flop in front of the TV after a long day. We experience please when we eat a packet of crisps to stave off hunger pangs. We look forward to the pleasure of a glass of red wine at the end of a long week.

Pleasure helps us to relax, escape and feel better.  All good but pleasure alone does not leave us feeling contented for long!

Pleasure alone is  shallow and doesn’t provide for growth and enjoyment.

Constant pleasure-seeking will get you into a cycle of needing more and more pleasure to make you happy – but the happiness continues to elude you.

One of the side-effects of pleasure-seeking is boredom – this leads to you taking greater risks in pleasure seeking –  like drinking more, eating more and other addictions. You’ll experience momentary pleasure along with a deeper feeling of anxiety, dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

How is enjoyment different to pleasure?

Enjoyment involves learning, stretching and challenging yourself so that you can overcome the limitations you assume you have.

Enjoyment helps you to accomplish aspiring goals. Enjoyment comes when you gain control over your attention. You focus on a task, fully immersed and attentive on what you are doing.

Enjoyment! This is the place of flow. This is the place of growth. This is the place of contentment.

How to achieve enjoyment:

  1. Give yourself a few opportunities everyday where you allow yourself to work without distractions. Allow yourself to become totally immersed in the task. Focus only on the task and nothing else.
  2. Bring curiosity with you. How can you do this better? How can you do this differently?  What can you try that you’ve never tried before?
  3. Choose tasks that are neither too easy nor too difficult. When you immerse yourself in these kinds of tasks you’ll expand your personal limits. You’ll achieve more. You’ll learn more.
  4. Whilst you work on this task, become mindful of your senses. Notice your body and what you are experiencing through your senses. This allows your mind to quieten and to focus only on the tasks. You’ll find any anxieties and fears disappear whilst you work like this.
  5. Set yourself an intrinsic reward such as solving the problem in half an hour, or discovering some novel ways of approaching the task. This provides a new challenge for you which makes the work more enjoyable and satisfying.

When you give yourself permission to work like this  in small bursts on a regular basis, you will experience joy.

The more often you do this, the better you will become at getting into a flow state, and the longer you will be able to sustain it.

Joy comes from getting in the flow.

What will this do for your life in general?

  • You experience a greater sense of contentment.
  • Work becomes less about grind and more about contribution.
  • You life has meaning and purpose.

How great a goal is that for 2015??

That’s my goal for this year. Are you joining  me?

For more info: Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

“The best moments usually occur
when a person’s body or mind
is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort
to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Posted in Life Mastery | 3 Comments

I am grateful…

I am grateful for….DSC02520

  • A husband who knows me better than anyone else on this planet… And still loves me.
  • Three kids who are thriving far away at University ( without me … Well, that’s not SO nice of them… But what can a MOM do? )
  • My parents and extended family – I cherish my time with them.
  • Clients who are serious about creating change in their lives and clients who are battling to change their lives.
  • Support from many of you who have attended my courses and  talks, and read my blog and books.
  • All the people in my life who make it what it is. From domestic workers, to gardeners, to accountants, beauticians, hairdressers and chiropractors, to mention but a few…
  • Friends , old and new, who bring different flavours of fun and adventure into our lives.
  • Glamour magazine for my  regular column.
  • Other magazines and blogs for opportunities to write. See the latest.
  •  Toastmasters, 90 years old this year, for giving people the gift of growth in leadership and communication.
  • Special places that nurture my soul: my garden, and the Olifants River.
  • Books… And the people that write them and enable me to learn so much.
  • Last, but not least, you, for reading my blog, for commenting and connecting with me.

Thank you.

Thank you, each and every one of you for making my life just the way it is.

Thank you for the opportunities that come from you and from life  itself – Opportunities to grow, to develop and to serve. These are the things that make my life worthwhile. Thank you!

When we were children
we were grateful to those
who filled our stockings at Christmas time.
Why are we not grateful to God
for filling our stockings with legs?

Gilbert K. Chesterton


Posted in Happiness, Life Mastery, Way of Being | 4 Comments

Crush Communication Complications in 4 Steps

Crush Communication Complications

Have you ever said something small and trivial to someone and they reacted furiously? As Communication Modelthey stormed out the door, you wondered what was wrong with them?

You somehow pushed their buttons and you’ve no idea why.

What you said meant something specific to them – only you don’t know what the meaning was.

Model of Mind

The Model of Mind, brought to us by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, explains that this happens because of the way we process information.

We take in around 2 million bits of information per second (bps)  – through our senses.

Our brain can only process about 138 bps.

What happens to the rest of the information?

The brain filters it out. Only the important stuff (according to our filters) is absorbed. We get an internal picture (brown polygon in the diagram). This internal picture is a representation of the meaning we make of the external event (the Star in the diagram).

Filters are like a standard measure. If the external event fits into your standards – the internal picture will be a positive one. If the external event is not acceptable, the internal picture will represent that.

The external event and the internal picture are TOTALLY different!

On top of this – my internal picture and your internal picture are also different – even when we are looking at the same event.

This is why communication is so difficult!

So when he finally pops the question – your internal picture is of you sinking in his arms. His internal picture is of you with your arms in his sink.

Once the internal picture is established in the brain, you react emotionally  (STATE in the diagram). It shows on your face and body (PHYSIOLOGY in the diagram) and then you behave in a certain way (BEHAVIOR in the diagram).

Communication is Complicated because only the external event, your physiology  and your behavior are visible to others. The filters, the internal picture and  your state are not visible.

How do we Crush Communication Complications?

You talk about the filters, the internal picture and the state and how they link to the external event and your behavior.

For example: When you sit on the couch instead of helping me, I feel angry and frustrated because in my family my Dad always helped, and then I withdraw and don’t talk to you.

Of course you can use it for positive communication as well: When you notice I’m down I feel cherished because that means you care and then I want to hug you.

Here are the 4 steps to crushing complications:

1) When You… :  Here you briefly describe the external event. Don’t belabor the point. It’s more important to spend time on the internal events – the picture, the filters and the emotional state.

2) I Feel…: There are over 400 words in English to describe feelings. Become aware and excellent at naming your feelings.

3) Because…: Here you talk about what the external event means to you. This may describe the filter or the internal picture. The meaning you make of it talks to whether the internal event is acceptable to you or not.

4) Then I…: Here you describe how you behave in reaction to the meaning you make of the external event.

When you do this, the other person is much more likely to understand you.

To understand the other person, you ask questions that will give you information about their internal picture, state and filters.



All it takes is practice.

Don’t wait until something hectic is going on, rather practice on simple, every day things.

This way when you need it , you’ll be able to Crush Communication Complications.

Let me know how it goes!

The single biggest problem in communication
is the illusion that it has taken place.
George Bernard Shaw

Posted in Communication, Life Mastery, Relationships | 4 Comments

Is it possible NOT to judge?

9899550114_40ce47aa69_zThe answer is NO.

It is impossible not to judge. We do it unconsciously all day every day. The process is instantaneous and usually unconscious. We are not even aware that we are judging.

Let’s look at how this happens:

  1. An event occurs (someone does or says something)
  2. We compare the event to our standards for how the world is supposed to be. We arrive at a positive or a negative assessment – they event is OK or its NOT OK.
  3. We experience an emotion that matches our assessment/ judgement.
  4. We act out according to the emotion we experienced.

The first three steps happen almost instantaneously. We have very little, if any,  control over this process.

Often step 4 will occur without much consideration on our part unless we are quite advanced in managing our emotions and reactions.

So when someone says “I am not judging you” what they actually mean is they are going to carefully choose how they  react to the judgement they have made of you.

What are the benefits of being non-judgmental?

Harsh judgements destroy relationships. Coming across as non-judgmental helps build relationships and contributes to solving problems.

Think about it – if you feel judged by someone, you will go into defense mode, attack mode or withdrawal mode. None of these are actually constructive.

This is why its important to be able to come across as non-judgmental.

There’s no one better than kids to teach you these lessons, don’t you agree? In my experience, coming across as non-judgmental works way better when dealing with kids.

This doesn’t mean the judgements don’t happen. When one of my kids tell me about the parties and fun they had on a weekend, my judgement is that they should be doing varsity work rather. I could nag and yell at them but I know this will be destructive. I choose to tell them I’m happy they are having fun. The amazing things is they get their work done and achieve good results at varsity.

How can you come across as NON-judgmental?

First – be aware of your judgement. Start noticing your assessments of situations and the matching emotions that you experience.

Second – choose how you react in response to your judgement. Put some space between the event and your reaction to give yourself some thinking-time.  Are your standards in this situation appropriate? Are your standards in this case  non-negotiable or can you bring some flexibility into the picture. How can you react in a way that is constructive rather than destructive?  Understand that the other person may have a different set of standards to you. What do you want to achieve by your response to the situation?

Third – watch your language. If you find the event unacceptable, express this by saying “I feel really upset by that behavior because … ” rather than by saying “You are a bad person”.  By taking the first option you are opening up the conversation and giving the other person space to consider their actions. The last option will shut down the conversation because the person will be feeling judged.

While it may be impossible to NOT judge, it is very possible  to build strong relationships by coming across as non-judgemental.

All you have to do is be aware and practice.

Photo from Flickr

Don’t judge someone just because
they sin differently to you.












Jurdgements are emotions reside in the body. We are emotional beings . Our emotionas are slipt-second reactions to an event. the emotions we experience in reaction to an event is our reflection of our judgements of the event. Does this fit into my standards? or even my social-cultural standards? This happens in a split second. Mostl y we are not even aware of it.


any event , at any moment is assessed throgh a filter and an emotiona is felt. the action that we choose to take depends on the emotion that we exerienced.


sp no – i believe jjudgement  is part of our nature. we do it all the time, wth any piece of info/ event that comes across. think bout an emeial. damn this is irritating, now i have to do this. judgement – irritating mail.


comes down to whether what we re observing is going to help us do the things that are important ot us or not.

Posted in awareness, Choices, Life Mastery, Relationships | Comments Off on Is it possible NOT to judge?

How to shift from self-criticism to self-analysis

13943406256_f7af373762_zI do it from time to time. You probably do it from time to time. We all do it from time to time.

Indulge in self-criticism.

It’s not serving you nor I very well.

Self-criticism tends to be destructive.

A more constructive option is to conduct self-analysis.

What is the difference?


Self-criticism tends to happen under the veil of negative emotions like despondency, hatred or disgust.

When you’re criticizing, you don’t look for the things that are right and working in yourself, you look only at the negative aspects – this in turn makes you feel even worse.

Problem-solving or working on the issues is not part of this process.

Your self-image is one-sided and rather dark – containing only the bad, wrong, difficult parts of your character.

Your self-worth is diminished and your self-esteem is destroyed.

You speak to yourself very harshly, perhaps swearing and name-calling.

The negative emotions you experience become even stronger.

You think of yourself with hatred and contempt.


Self-analysis on the other hand is about accepting and understanding yourself.

Your emotions tend to be neutral when you self-analyze.

You acknowledge the things that you are doing well and that are working in your life.

You notice the things that not right and not working. Here’s the key – you then work out some steps you can take to fix/improve those items.

Your self-image is balanced and realistic.

You value yourself and understand your self-worth.

Your self-esteem is stable and strong.

You speak to yourself in an encouraging way.

The purpose of self-analysis is to help you be the very best that you can be.

You think of yourself with love and compassion.

Note that self-analysis is not self-inflation.

When you indulge in self-inflation (to hide a dreadful self-image) you only notice the best of yourself and you see those characteristics as even better that they are in reality. You also deny any failings. Your self-image glitters. Your self-worth is inflated. You think of yourself with arrogance and superiority.

You put these three things on a scale.

Self-criticism is on one end, self-inflation is on the other end, and self-analysis balances neatly in the middle.

Where on the scale do you lie?

What can you do to move more towards the middle?

Because self-criticism and self-inflation are activities that we have taught ourselves, this implies that we can also teach ourselves the more constructive option of self-analysis.

3 Steps to Self-Analysis

1. Observe:

  • Observe your way of being in the world. When that self-talk is happening in your head, what kind of language are you using? Are you calling yourself names? Do you swear at yourself?
  • Notice the emotions you are experiencing at the time. Are you observing yourself with contempt or compassion?
  • How are you holding your body when you engage in self-talk? If it’s all negative you’ll find your body is slumped over. If the self-talk is constructive you find your body is straight, shoulders back.

2. Document:

  • Write down what you have observed so that you can track your progress over time. Take some deep breaths and get yourself into a calm and neutral space. Now write about what you are doing that is working? What characteristics you have that serve you well. Put some effort into this part.
  •  Now look at what is not working about your way of being in the world. NOTE – only focus on two items, not more. If you list 100 things here, you’re slipping back into self-criticism. Now write down what you can do to improve these two things. Do you need to get help from someone to assist you in improving these aspects?
  • Support yourself if necessary by getting help from a coach or mentor. Go to therapy to sort out past issues. Find out where you can learn a new skill if that’s what’s needed. Remember- there is always a way to improve – find it. Write down some action steps you can take to improve.
  •  Finish off by jotting down what you love best about yourself and the life you have created.

3. Implement:

No action, no change! If you don’t take any action, nothing will change. Implement your action plan.

Repeat these steps on a regular basis.

Soon you will find yourself moving towards balanced, constructive self-analysis.

This will help you to learn, grow and develop into the very best that you can be.

“Self-care is never a selfish act
—it is simply good stewardship
of the only gift I have,
the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.”
Parker Palmer

 Photo from


Posted in awareness, Balance, Feelings, Life Mastery, Self esteem | Comments Off on How to shift from self-criticism to self-analysis

Long’s Suggestions for Long-Lasting Relationships

Long-lasting relationships are the stuff of fairy-tales. Married-ever after! This is how the fairy-tale ends and no thought is given to the years that follow and to HOW you actually manage this.

I did a speech at Toastmasters the other day giving some suggestions for long-lasting relationships. Some background about the speech: I entered the speech in a club humorous contest. Because my surname is Long and we’ve been married a long time I decided to bring the humour in by using the word LONG is as many ways as possible. Despite the humour, the underlying message is serious.



Posted in Communication, Lessons, Life Mastery, Relationships | 7 Comments

Warning: Assassination Ruins Relationships

Relationships Die One Sentence at a Time.

216594524_44b8d124f2_z (2)When you are unhappy about something your partner does the words that come out of your mouth are crucial.

Look at the difference between these two sentences:

  1. “I don’t like it when you leave your dirty clothes all over the bedroom.”
  2. “You are such a slob. You might like living in a pig-sty but I don’t.”

Complaining Vs Character-Assassination.

The first sentence is a complaint.

The second sentence is a character-assassination.

The first sentence deals with the problem.

The second sentence doesn’t deal with the problem at all – in fact the person you are addressing may have no idea what you’re getting at – and they’re certainly not going to make an effort to change. Would you?

If you are assassinating your partner’s character on a regular basis, you can be sure of two things:

Deal Decently with Issues

Before you lash out next time, use the guidelines below to tackle the issue:

  • Identify one issue to talk about. Only one. Let me repeat that: tackle only one issue at a time.
  • Focus on the behaviour not your partner’s character.
  • Plan how you will say it. Begin the sentence with I and not You. “I don’t like the way you spill toothpaste all over the basin.” or “I feel so upset when you expect me to clean up the mess after you’ve cooked”  OR “I feel exhausted after all these visitors; I’d appreciate some help cleaning up and then we can both relax together.”
  • Practice your sentence mentally a few times.
  • When you are calm, deliver your sentence to your partner. Now BE QUIET. Allow your partner to digest and respond.

Getting into the habit of dealing with problems this way allows for better communication and stronger relationships.

Practice Every Day

Start with small issues and practice every day. This way when you need to deal with something big it will come more naturally.

Lastly, don’t forget to verbally appreciate when changes happen.

Criticism, like rain,
should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth
without destroying his roots.

 Frank A. Clark

 Photo by Martin Stabenfeldt


Posted in Life Mastery | 6 Comments

13 Sailing Lessons for Ladies

ourYachtSailing the Adriatic Sea was an awesome adventure.

In honour of Woman’s Day I thought I’d share some lessons  learnt – from a woman’s perspective.

Sailing Lessons for Ladies

1. Take an experienced sailor with you. Look, if you go during the European summer its mostly blue skies and sun and light winds (or none) BUT on the day of the storm it’s really useful to have someone take the lead and shout instructions. By the way – you can hire a sailor but if I were you I’d ask for pictures and interview him first!

2. Take a fan rather than fake a tan. (sorry!) You’re going to go brown quickly – the sun just doesn’t seem as fierce as our African sun. It’s also going to be hot and humid – fine when you’re on the yacht but when in enclosed spaces the fan is great – and no-one will know you so it doesn’t matter if they see you fanning yourself like an old lady!

3. Take less stuff. We hired a catamaran.  It’s a little bit like a caravan on water. The bunks are tiny. The cupboards are smaller. The shower is in the same square meter as the toilet. Before we left I packed my suitcase – then took some stuff out. I should have taken out more. There is very little space to put stuff and you don’t really need much.

4. Put the toilet paper away when you shower. See point 3. No matter how careful you are, the hand-help shower IS going to soak the toilet paper. On that point – use as little toilet paper as possible – blocked pipes on a yacht are no fun.

5. Choose your friends carefully. See point 3 again.  You’re going to be spending a lot of time in a confined space with the same people for an extended period of time. Make sure you all get on well and work as a team.

6. Hire a bigger yacht than you need if you can afford it. See point 3 again! We put all our suitcases, snorkeling equipment, spare drinks, fishing stuff and anything else that would not fit in our rooms/ kitchen in the spare berth. Very useful!

7. Don’t hold rigidly onto your plans. Be flexible. Be very flexible. We spent much time before we left plotting our route and deciding which were the best islands to visit. None of it worked out. We made new plans every day and every day was completely different to what we had planned.  That’s OK. We still had loads of fun and incredible experiences.

8. Fly your flag. We proudly  flew a South African flag on our yacht. In one port someone wandered over to chat to us – they had recognized our flag. Next minute our yacht was invaded by about 20 people (from different countries) – they bought drinks and food, we shared our drinks and food –  and  good party ensued. Such fun!

9. Shop at the markets. The old cities are beautiful and full of tourist shops. You will find that the market across the street carries the same tourist stuff at much cheaper rates.

10. Anchor in quiet ports and catch the water taxi to the parties on neighboring islands. That’s if you want your beauty sleep! In the busy ports the music blares out from various venues for most of the night. Great if you want to party, not if you want to sleep.

11. Go on a cooking course.  Our cooking teacher took us to the local fish and veggie market and showed us what was what – then she taught us to cook some local dishes. Apart from being useful, it was a loads of fun.

12. Beware of the schnapps. Most restaurants offer patrons a free glass of schnapps after the meal. There’s a reason it’s free!

13. There will always be greater and lesser yachts than yours. One local we were chatting to had a beautiful yacht – much bigger and better than ours. As we were chatting a huge, sleek, sophistical yacht sailed into the harbour. He looked in envy and said, “No matter how much you spend on your yacht, there’s always someone richer with a bigger yacht”. Just like life!

I firmly believe that new experiences contribute to a full and rich life. I am so glad we decided to try a sailing holiday – it turned out to be a huge adventure.

Always say YES to new experiences!

How about sharing the lessons you have learnt from some of your new experiences?

“Twenty years from now,
you will be more disappointed
by the things you didn’t do
than those you did.
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from safe harbor.
Catch the wind in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Mark Twain

Posted in Choices, Lessons | 3 Comments

Something’s Gotta Give

nickKeatThe stories you tell yourself about yourself have the ultimate impact on the way your life unfolds.

The movie Something’s Gotta Give illustrates this so beautifully.

Harry (Jack Nicholson) is a perennial bachelor who only dates women under thirty. Erica (Diane Keaton) is a successful, divorced playwright – and way over Harry’s thirty year old limit. Harry and his latest fling, who happens to be Erica’s daughter, go off to Erica’s beach house for a romantic weekend. At the beach house Harry experiences severe chest pains and Erica reluctantly agrees to nurse him back to health.

Naturally (after all this is a rom-com), Harry and Erica fall in love.

Once Harry recovers he returns to his previous bachelor life. Only now he keeps thinking of Erica. They start chatting over the Internet.

This is where you see the huge power of Harry’s story which is that he is a bachelor who has brief relationships with young, gorgeous women.

Almost without thinking, Harry types the words “I miss you” onto his screen. He about to hit send, when he hesitates.

You get a sense of his inner turmoilI don’t do this. This is not me. I don’t DO relationships. Commitment is not my game.

The story wins….

Slowly he backspaces until the message is deleted. The relationship fades away.

Harry’s story prevented him from living authentically, from following his true feelings and from experiencing love and contentment in a relationship that he craved.

What about you?

When you say/ think things like “I’m the kind of person who …..” Or ” That’s not me – I’m more like …. ” then ask yourself the following:

Spend time reflecting on how your story impacts your life.

So what happened to Harry and Erica?

You’ve probably seen the movie – it’s almost a classic! So you know the answer.

If not …. Settle on the couch with some popcorn and a blanket …. And enjoy.

Change your thoughts
and you change your world.

Norman Vincent Peale

Posted in Life Mastery | Comments Off on Something’s Gotta Give

Perspectives from Prison


I’ve always worried about whether I should tell my story to the prisoners that I work with, or not. The team leader is adamant that I must. And so I do.

Last week I realized the value of sharing this story.

I guess I’ve been worried that the prisoners may think I’m telling my story to make them feel guilty or bad. This is not my intention.

To put this in context: I give a workshop on journaling, which is the first workshop that is part of a greater 20-week rehabilitation program, called Heartwork.

There are many uses for journaling.

Amongst them is using the journal to process a traumatic event.

I share the story of my armed robbery to illustrate how I used the trauma journal to heal and move on.

I told this story at Boksburg prison last Wednesday.

The prisoners participated, engaged with the content, and asked so many questions, we eventually had to stop and tell them they could speak to me individually during the tea break.

One man came up to me. He towered above me as he gently shook my hand.

“Miss Kirsty”, he said. “I am so sorry about what happened to you. We do this to other people, but we don’t know what it’s like on the other side. I apologize on behalf of the man who did this to you.”

I have to admit to feeling a little teary-eyed in that moment.

I realized then that the value add here was that this man was able to see things from another perspective. As soon as we are able to do that, we are able to see a bigger picture, to experience empathy, and to have better  insight and understanding of people, situations and life itself.

I have coached many people who have had ‘aha’ moments when looking a situations from another perspective. The ability to do this indicates a certain level of emotional intelligence. The deep understanding one gains from being able to see things from another perspective allows for better decision making and ultimately life mastery.

If there are situations in your life where you are struggling, look at it from a different perspective. What do you think is going on for the other person? What are their views and struggles? What can you learn from looking through their eyes? What action can you take now that adds value to everyone involved?

I’m sitting in my car writing this post. I’m parked outside Groenpunt prison in Vereeniging. It’s a sunny zero degrees outside. In a little while I’ll be talking to these prisoners about journaling. I’ll tell my story again. I wonder what the reaction will be like today….

The only thing you sometimes
have control over
is perspective.
You don’t have control over your situation.
But you have a choice about how you view it.

Chris Pine

Photo from

Posted in Life Mastery | 8 Comments