One of the main things I do to fight back against anxiety and low self-esteem / low self-confidence is to try and progress through life with a positive outlook on things. This can often be easier said than done though it is something I try to remember to consider on a daily basis. One issue I haven’t really mentioned in my blogs to date is depression, primarily as I don’t believe I’ve ever suffered from it. I hope that doesn’t sound dismissive or disrespectful; it’s just that I don’t feel I know enough about it to write engaging content. Despite the issues I’ve written about in previous blogs, I don’t tend to feel down to such an extent that I would consider it to be depression. I’m pretty sure we all have down-days, and the issues I have certainly frustrate me on a fairly frequent basis, though I’m usually able to snap out of that frame of mind pretty quickly. Maintaining a positive outlook isn’t always easy but there are a few core beliefs I have these days which help me.
I’ve never been a particularly materialistic person but the older I get, the less materialistic I am and the more I appreciate what I believe to be the important things in life. I am incredibly fortunate to be blessed with a wonderful family and an equally wonderful circle of friends. That means a huge amount to me and I consider this every single day. I also regularly consider how lucky I am to be relatively healthy and able-bodied. It may sound trite but there are many people who aren’t so lucky and I certainly don’t take good health for granted. For 3 years now, I have maintained a daily list in OneNote titled ‘Something which made me smile today’. I have a daily reminder set-up in my phone to complete this at 9pm each evening. In preparing to write this particular blog post and looking back over the entries, it struck me that I appreciate the simple things in life much more than I used to. Some of the random entries include seeing a guy running with his aging terrier by his side; seeing a passport picture of my wife aged 10 years old and it being the spitting image of my daughter; singing to Five’s ‘Keep On Moving’ in the car with my daughter and actually staying there (having arrived at our destination) until the song finished; a beautiful early morning blue sky over frosty fields; and seeing a guy waiting for the train one morning clearly lost in his music, with his head bobbing around like David Gray! What became very apparent when revisiting this is that there are very few entries relating to materialistic pleasures, or actually buying something. The vast majority of entries relate to experiences, feelings, observing elements of day-to-day life, appreciating the simple beauty in daily sights that we sometimes forget to appreciate, or the numerous moments of immense pride, particularly relating to my wife and daughter, which will mean very little to anyone else but mean the world to me. Maintaining this daily record certainly helps me to retain a positive focus on life.
I also maintain a number of image albums on my phone, which I refer to frequently. Many of these are in a folder called ‘motivational images’. Whilst I realise that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it helps me a lot. There are also albums titled ‘Fitness Pics’, ‘Funnies’, ‘Jolly Boys’ (i.e. amusing photos either from or of my friends), ‘Music Quotes’, and ‘Side Hustle’ (more on that in a future post), as well as some video clip albums relating to similar themes. I’ll be writing much more about these in future posts.
Another key driver for me at the moment, and one which certainly keeps me positive and motivated, is a burning desire to achieve. This may sound like a bit of a midlife crisis though I don’t believe it is. It’s simply a case that the older I get, the greater I feel a need to achieve something in life; to leave a mark; to do something positive. The thought of doing the same job, and being stuck on the corporate hamster wheel, for the next 20-25 years horrifies me. That may seem like a crazy statement to include in a blog which may be seen by work colleagues but I’m wholly comfortable in stating that. Don’t the majority of us have similar thoughts? I don’t know or see many people who I would say are truly energised and motivated by their work. Stating this doesn’t mean that I don’t give my all to my job – I have very high standards and aim to give 100% to everything that I do – though this doesn’t change the fact that I would much rather be earning a living from a passion or a pursuit which truly lights a fire in me. I strongly believe many of us feel the same way. Societal conventions mean we become a little robotic and institutionalised. A significant number of us go to work from Monday to Friday; we endure a painful commute; we get home from work, eat, and spend time with out immediate family; we then, if we’re lucky, get some time to indulge in hobbies or pastimes, whether they be sport, computer games, or simply slouching on the couch in front of the TV. We spend our weeks wishing it were the weekend and our weekends wishing we had more time to ourselves as it’ll soon be Sunday evening and our thoughts will return to work in the morning. The cycle goes on and on and on. It doesn’t have to be that way though…
I see my main potential ‘way out’ as being via writing. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always had a passion for reading and writing. I believe I’m reasonably adept at it and I am currently attempting to find ways to do more of it. That has resulted in less time in front of the TV and whilst that isn’t ideal, it is essential for me at this moment in time. I am a huge fan of television and film and could quite easily sit in front of the screen for 4-5 hours per evening to indulge in this passion, though that won’t get me anywhere. Why should I watch the latest crime drama when I could be writing the next? Why should I watch the latest comedy series when I could be writing the next? Does that sound ludicrous? It may but it shouldn’t. Successful writers aren’t supreme beings who have been created to churn hit show after hit show; they are ordinary people who had a dream and a dash of self-belief and actually spent the time being a little creative in the hope that it would get them somewhere. A few years ago, ITV aired a successful crime series called ‘Prey’, starring John Simm. It was written by a man named Chris Lunt ( more detail here ) who comes from the same town as me and went to the same school as me. Calvin Harris, possibly the biggest DJ on the planet right now, worked on a Scottish fish market whilst honing his craft and become a multi-millionaire chart topper collaborating with the biggest singers on the planet. My favourite author, Stephen King, was a teacher struggling to make ends meet when he wrote the initial drafts of his first novel, before concluding that he didn’t believe in it and threw into a bin. Had his wife Tabitha not pulled it out, read it and given him the encouragement he needed, he wouldn’t have continued with ‘Carrie’ and likely would not have become one of the best-selling writers of all time. These, and many other examples I could quote, are ordinary, everyday people with a talent (much like most of us) they were willing to devote time to and pursue. Why shouldn’t any of the rest of us attempt the same?
Prioritising is the difficult thing for me as I may not have enough time to attempt everything I want to, certainly in the short-term. I want to do it all and I want to do it now. I have ideas for 3-4 fiction novels, including stories for children (of a spooky / supernatural theme – I’m heavily influenced by what I loved as a child), an adult horror novel, a chick-lit type novel (what can I say – I’m in touch with my feminine side and love a good chick-flick / chick-lit novel!), and a kitchen-sink style story focusing on societal issues and influenced by recent events in the UK. Stephen King firmly believes reading is the first step in becoming a competent writer and it bothers me that I simply don’t have time to read all the books I wish to. I want to write the songs I have either noted down as ideas or which are milling around in my head. I have dozens of ideas for songs and I find the best way to generate song ideas is to put myself in the shoes of others, be they friends, family members, prominent figures in the news, or fictional characters in film, TV and literature. Considering the viewpoints of others within a given situation can certainly provide a rich seam of ideas. To provide another example of an ordinary person achieving huge success, Noel Gallagher, the person I believe to be the greatest songwriter of my generation, had a troubled working-class background and wrote some of his biggest initial hits in the storeroom of a building firm where he worked. Last year I wrote a script for a pilot episode of a comedy sitcom with a very good friend of mine. We entered it into the annual BBC Writersroom development scheme for comedy writers and, whilst nothing came of that, we are continuing to pursue other potential avenues for the script.
I simply have to pursue all the ideas detailed above – they are absolutely what drive me right now. As for all the films and TV shows I wish to watch, it looks increasingly likely that they’ll have to wait until I retire. Before anyone asks, yes, I’m in the 0.0000000001% of the population who has never seen a single episode of ‘Game of Thrones’! Or The Wire, The Sopranos, West Wing, Peaky Blinders, The Walking Dead, Stranger Things (though I will make time for that very soon), Breaking Bad, or Homeland! I’m desperate to watch them all but my priorities currently lie elsewhere.
To wrap this post up, I suppose I’m attempting to emphasise two important points here. The first is that I try to remain positive by considering on a daily basis exactly what I should be thankful for. More and more, I’m finding the simple things in life really do matter the most and I am eternally grateful for everything I have. Give it a go once you’ve read this – before turning out the light at night, think back to something that made you smile during the day and be thankful for it. The second point is that I also try to remain positive by continually working toward a number of goals I have. They may not develop into anything of note though I would much rather give them a shot than reach an age where I’m unable to achieve anything and subsequently harbour deep regrets at not having even tried. I could write for ever and a day about ordinary people achieving great results and creating amazing output simply because they believed in themselves and put their minds to it. Thousands have done it; why shouldn’t you or I? If you’re happy and content in resting the mind and sitting in front of the TV most nights, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Though if you have just a hint of an idea in your head, be it a story or a song or a business idea, please do me a huge favour and give it a little more thought. You may think it’s crazy, though I doubt it will be. You may think people will mock you for it – I really doubt it but if you want to be on the safe side, don’t tell too many people. You may think you could devote time to it and nothing may come of it – that may be the case, it may not. But wouldn’t you rather sit your grandkids on your knee in future years and motivate them by telling them you at least gave it a shot? You never know – those grandkids could be sat on the knee of the next J.K. Rowling, Ed Sheeran, or Alan Sugar. Yes, you can do it…
Thanks again for taking the time to read this – I really do appreciate it.
Until next time.