Last week I vocalized my first gripe over Christmas gift buying. It was a blustery day and I told myself after work I would venture out to the dangers of Princes Street to hunt for gifts and finally start checking people off the list. My friend’s response was not what I expected, “oh I stopped doing that years ago”…I had to ask for clarification, “yeah just one year, enough was enough and I explained to friends and family I would no longer buy Christmas gifts”. Is it possible to find a balance and not over consume during the Christmas period, does a conscious Christmas exist?
I’ve never felt quite so jealous of someone else’s relief from such a trivial conundrum. I don’t think I ever considered the fact that you could just…stop. It made me question why we do it to ourselves? Perhaps it’s like everything in life, the virus of capitalism has leached onto everything. Instead of being content with giving one thoughtful gift we are plagued by thoughts of ‘I didn’t spend enough’, ‘it should be more than one gift’, ‘what if they spent more than me’, ‘what if they think I don’t care’. None of these thoughts are very Christmassy and at the heart of it, your loved ones would never think such things of you.
“It is another of consumerism’s ironies that, although it functions like a mental trap, we often think of it as an escape.” ― J.B. MacKinnon, The Day the World Stops Shopping: How Ending Consumerism Saves the Environment and Ourselves
Personally, I don’t think I could take quite a drastic leap, and whilst I wouldn’t label my friend a Bah Humbug, I simply love Christmas too much to not gift give. However, I find myself extremely frustrated over the wasteful and excessive way we consume Christmas and we should definitely become more conscious over the Christmas period. Consumerism and the environment go hand in hand, the more we consume, the more we produce, the more we waste. It’s times of the year, like Christmas, where we should definitely be consuming differently, and not as much.
We’ve all had our fair share of Christmas presents where their only purpose was to generate, at best, a 30 second laugh. They then spend the rest of their life in a junk drawer, or collecting dust on a shelf only to end up in the bin or at a charity shop. I see gift sets from chain retailers in the same light. Ultimately, you are paying for Christmas themed packaging which again…goes in the bin!
So how do we all take steps to reduce wasteful consumption? Gag gifts can be a hoot, but can be sourced responsibly via charity shops or even ebay. No, your friend with a leaky gas pipe does not need a fart button. At all costs, avoid the boring, and frankly sexist, gifts for him or gifts for her sections. There’s a reason these types of gifts and gift sets dramatically fall in price post Christmas (it’s because no one wants them).
Without ignoring the elephant in the room, we are of course in the midst of a cost of living crisis. If unanimously we are spending less on Christmas, how can we also allow our money to have a greater impact on our local economy. Easy, spend it locally. And when I say locally I don’t mean Fort Kinnard because it’s down the road. Turn to our independent traders, local shops! Treat our friends and family to smaller gift parcels full of delights. Ultimately, these traders may not make it without our support. You may already be thinking about how these shops are too expensive, but again, perhaps we need to adjust our expectations for gifts. Quality over quantity!
Yes you may be able to get more ‘bang for your buck’ by buying gifts from chain retailers, but think of how much further your money goes when supporting a local business. Not only does your lucky receiver gain a beautiful, thoughtful gift, but you actively supported our local economy. Without sounding ungrateful, I find nothing more frustrating than receiving a gift that I know I won’t use. I’m sure we can all agree that one thoughtful gift is far more wonderful to receive than a big pile of consumer goods that are eventually forgotten about.
There is always the calling that a DIY christmas is the way to go. Undoubtedly, with energy costs on the rise, a vat of homemade chutney may no longer be the answer we’re looking for. We can definitely be a lot craftier in our quest for gifts. Perhaps we also should stop frowning upon the idea of second hand gifts…When it comes down to it, what are the real differences between a charity shop book, and a new book? Or a toy? A scarf? I’d argue that the only difference is our disdain towards giving something that has had a previous life.
In reality, imagine the cost of purchasing a variety of toys, books and games for a child and simply rejuvenating it with thoughtful and crafty wrapping? Who doesn’t love a hamper?! There’s no reason the hamper couldn’t be made up of second hand buys… You can find some more ideas for this here.
“Under capital’s growth imperative, there is no horizon – no future point at which economists and politicians say we will have enough money or enough stuff. There is no end, in the double sense of the term: no maturity and no purpose.”Jason Hickel, Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World
I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way around these conundrums. Christmas gift shopping is already hard enough without jumping through extra hoops. Society screams at us to be more eco-conscious, to save local businesses and still please our loved ones. Nevertheless, we should consider what our favorite gifts have been. How and why did they spark joy or find purpose in your life? Consider the journey the gift will go on after it has been received. By applying a few of these thoughts to our gift giving this year, we will ultimately have a more conscious christmas!
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It’s all too easy to reflect on time past as lost or wasted, the consequence of losing time only becomes apparent during moments of guilt based contemplation. Guilt causes us to value lost time to a higher level than the time we still have ahead of us. But perhaps this perpetual way of thinking is too caught up in regret and therefore we continue to waste time rather than build sustainable change to obtain our desires and goals. It’s easier to overestimate the power of the past and therefore underestimate the value of small changes and habits to daily life.
I had not considered the power of small habits until recently, this realisation came from an enormous change in the routine of my work life. I had spent the majority of my adult working life sacrificing a minimum of 40 hours a week to a physically and mentally challenging job. On top of that, I received my rota a week at a time, usually a day or two before the week started. The notion of habit and routine was impossible for me to obtain due to these constraints. The impact a lack of routine had on my physical and mental wellbeing was not unnoticed…definitely suppressed. When I think back to this lifestyle a quote from Bruce Tift rings true: “we don’t have to consciously participate in what it’s like to feel claustrophobic, imprisoned, powerless, and constrained by reality.” I felt as though I was down a rabbit hole with no idea how to get out. I needed more good days.
Personal time became a sparse luxury, when not at work I either needed to clean my flat, do laundry (AGAIN), or simply turn my body off and enter the abyss that is reality television. It wasn’t living, it wasn’t even surviving, it was simply existing. After having a sad and almost existential realisation that my work was the root cause of my unhappiness, changing my job became a necessity. Fast forward a year and two jobs later I finally found myself in a job that gave me TIME! Beautiful time! What did I do with this time?! I watched more TELLY! I mean…c’mon it was well earnt and a new series of Euphoria was calling my name. This didn’t last too long as I was well aware that this time could be better spent. Having said that, it’s just as important to know when to hibernate and recuperate.
“We often seem to dismiss small changes because they don’t seem to matter very much in the moment.” -James Clear: Atomic Habits.
The first small change that I made in an attempt to improve my wellbeing was to go to the gym. When I say I hated it, I really mean it. I hated the smell, the music, the sound and the look of the machines. Everything was monochrome and industrial. However, it became an important first step towards my ultimate goal. I wanted to become a runner. I knew I would never have the confidence to run in public without an improvement in my fitness levels. Even once I made it out of the gym and into the great outdoors, I kept running a well guarded secret. I wanted to protect my desire to run as far away as possible from the stigma of weight loss, this was not my goal and not my intention. I feared that outside opinions would push this unwanted pressure onto me and the public declaration of being a runner would skew my own vision.
Why am I running? Metaphorically form the patriarchy, in reality for myself! Overestimating the importance of a defining moment is easy, it’s even more important to value small improvements that you create daily. Success and achieving a goal does not require massive action. For me, the reason I run isn’t to run a marathon, it’s to have time to myself, to listen to music, to be outdoors and see the seasons change…
Routine aided in me identifying as a runner, now I can’t imagine not doing it and i’m certainly no longer scared to say that I do it. James Clear prompts the celbration of identity as it is a form of intrinsic motivation, “It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.” Schedule the time and show up for yourself, routine will form confidence in your actions and they will therefore become sustainable and with time, unconscious.
I felt that it was important to tell this story as it points out some fundamental things that first must happen in order to engage in positive lifestyle changes and become your ‘best self’. First, is your environment. This is both your home life and work life and acknowledging that a balance is needed. The second is motivating habitual practices in order to achieve a positive change.
“Your goal becomes your compass, not your buried treasure. The goal is your direction, not your destination. The goal is a mission that you are on, a path that you follow. Whatever comes from that path—whatever treasure you happen to find along this journey—well, that’s just fine. It is the commitment to walking the path that matters.” –James Clear: Atomic Habits.
When you identify a change you want to make in your life, or set a new goal the most important part is to make it a manageable change. If you set a goal that is too impossible to reach, it is unlikely that you will achieve it. Instead manage ambitions into smaller goals, this will enable you to change habits and generate sustainable progression. An unattainable goal will cause you to fall possibly at the first hurdle and therefore instantly lose motivation. Your habits must also align with your environment, looking back now I would not have made positive and sustainable changes in my life without changing my working life.
It’s difficult to appreciate small changes and the creation of small habits because they do not matter in the moment. We’re all guilty of comparing ourselves to those who are already where we want to get to. It doesn’t matter how unsuccessful or good you are right now, the thing that matters is curating the time, environment and nurturing the habits. Once you’ve consciously made these decisions (and ofcourse stick to them), everything else falls into place.
Curating your environment will expose many practical changes that ultimately lead to good habits and rituals. For example, I’m personally guilty of leaving my phone to charge on top of my ever growing pile of unread books. It’s as easy as charging my phone in a different room, by removing the distraction of a phone (and silly animal videos), maybe…just maybe, those books will get read!
“Making a better decision is easy and natural when the cues for good habits are right in front of you […] be the designer of your world, and not merely the consumer of it.” -James Clear: Atomic Habits.
As we come into colder and darker months, it becomes even more important to consciously establish positive habits. Maybe it’s just as much about understanding the deep route of why you want to do something, or embody something? What does it bring to your life? I think without at least a curiosity to understand why, perhaps it won’t bring you the redemption you want it to. Is there a change in your lifestyle that you want to make? Ask yourself how you can create meaningful habits to build and shape your world. Write it down, break it down, enjoy the process of change and have more good days!
“[Life] is a dance, and when you are dancing, you are not intent on getting somewhere. The meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance.”- Oliver Burkeman:The Antidote.
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It seems poignant to follow on from Dani’s last post, The Next step, with my own reflection on my first month at Tribe Porty. This piece of writing became a great opportunity for me to reflect, consider and grow. Starting a new job always comes with a rough terrain of anxieties and worries, especially when you are venturing into new territory. I’ve spent my work life since leaving university dedicated to the hospitality industry. For me, my next big move in hospitality would be to own my own cafe and I was starting to feel the constraints that working in such an industry can have. The Community Manager post felt like it was made for me, this is the only time I’ve felt this way about an opportunity outside of hospitality. It was my next step.
I came into Tribe quietly confident, ready for the challenge. The one thing that I didn’t expect was to find it difficult to engage with people and I felt my confidence stray. I became timid not out of fear, but because it can be difficult to integrate into a community that is already established. Established in the sense of community, but also connecting with people that are distinguished professionally. Here I am, starting anew, amongst all these amazing talents, thinkers and creators and I struggled to see where I fit as a piece of the puzzle. I knew deep down I was more than capable, but I needed to unearth my dormant talents. When I found myself feeling lost or out of depth, I caught myself finding comfort in wiping down tables and cleaning up the kitchen after a little lunch rush. Eventually, I found that this only fuelled the vicious fire that is imposter syndrome. Was I meant to stay in hospitality? I missed the comfort blanket of experience.
However, as I chatted to you all more, and with the support of Dani, I’ve really started to find my feet. My confidence only grows stronger as I settle into the role and become more self-assured in my abilities. It’s been fantastic to awaken my inner writer and artist which has been in hibernation since graduation. I sense that my confidence will really flourish as I take on more projects and see them sprout from a tiny idea to a fully fledged event or gathering.
One of my favourite parts about working for Tribe Porty is how it has changed my work life balance and encouraged a far more nurturing culture. Every morning when I ride my bike in, instead of battling up Easter Road, swerving past vans and buses, I now have the immense pleasure of a gentle cruise along the promenade. In addition, the shift from ‘working late’ to make up a few extra pennies to taking part in meditation classes or gaining a new wealth of knowledge from a Tribe Talk feels like an enormous blessing. It’s so important for your work to work for you, something I feel a lot of people realised during the pandemic and are slowly starting to forget.
Spring feels like a fitting time of the year to have a change in life, not only is it a change of season, but a season in which nature is rebirthed, grows and thrives. I recall a benefit that I found from Lockdown and the world stopping was being able to notice the change in season. The shift from winter to spring felt longer, it felt as though one had time to enjoy it. So whilst I have been caught up in self doubt and anxiety, I am going to remind myself to embrace the change and see it instead as an opportunity to grow. I’m excited to continue this journey with you all and I can’t wait to see where this next step takes me.
If you are looking for a better working life and grow your business with like-minded women, the programme is for you. To get a better idea of Keystone, we have a free check-in checklist and ways to rest worksheet download. The checklist and worksheet are aimed to identify and strengthen your access to your own resources, strengths and vision. Taking rest and creating rituals with intention, will help bring meaning and joy to your daily life. Keystone is open for signups in September, to keep in the loop, sign up to their newsletter.
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by Dani Trudeau
It has been a bit of a tough month. I have not been well and in pain and after a load of tests and scans, I still don’t know what is causing it all. That being said, it has taught me a few good things too. Before I sound overly dramatic, I just want to say that I am grateful for my health, albeit not brilliant at this very moment, as for as I know it is nothing serious. Like most experiences outside our norm, it is an opportunity to wake us up and take notice of what we do have.
As darkness helps us see the light, I think pain helps us see the joy. Being in A&E for 8 hours last week and witnessing the pain of others, I felt really sad. I felt sorry for myself but also for others; those alone, the young guy passed out, the elderly woman being ignored. It also showed me how ill prepared we are for loss and vulnerability and how our default coping mechanism is often denial. The systems we live and work in don’t support us very well most of the time. I was just outside the nurses station and it was clear that they work within a system which dictates that patients are moved or discharged by a certain time. They had up to 4 hours to move me out of A&E. Unfortunately, they moved me up to the surgical ward with little communication and I was prepped for surgery without knowing what was happening. I then waited another 4 hours for the consultant to tell me he didn’t know what was going on and to go home.
I understand why these ‘efficient’ systems are implemented and can be useful. Something happens though when the system because more important than the work. It must be far less satisfying for those healthcare workers to work for the system instead of the patient as well. From my perspective, I felt hugely disconnected on a human level. There are parts of ourselves that the conventional health care system isn’t equipped to heal or nourish, adding to our suffering.
There was a moment when I was being rolled out of A&E and up to the surgical op ward when I looked over at the man in the next room, bent over, watery eyes and in obvious pain. I quickly looked away and then thought about hearing the nurse comment about how he knows him (in a “oh yeah I know Dave” kind of way). Did that comment make me less empathetic to his suffering. Did I not want to see his suffering or did I at some level, not even believe it. I felt horrible about this. How can I accept suffering and not get tripped up by my own discomfort around it. In fact, maybe that is what some of the healthcare workers have to do to cope with the daily onslaught of other’s suffering.
I love what palliative care expert, BJ Miller, MD has to say on the topic. “First, let’s all get better at being vulnerable because we are vulnerable. If you’re in the course of a normal life, any one of us is going to be a burden to someone sometime. It’s just not possible to only give care and not need to receive it. Getting more savvy with needing one another is one way to turn down the pain.”
After getting home, it took me a day and some serious self talk to get me out of feeling utterly shite. No one could help me and maybe somehow I was making this all happen or making this up? I had to remind myself that normal scans and tests were a good thing and that I had to just keep checking in with how I felt and asking more questions. I had to remember to trust myself and that the body doesn’t lie. And although most of us don’t know when we are going to die, we are all dying.
The more intimate we get with the idea of dying, the closer we come to folding it into the fabric of our daily lives, the better off we’ll all be, Miller says. Advice on how to die well is really no more than advice on how to live well, with that unavoidable reality in mind.
by Dani Trudeau
Perspective taking and the unfolding of inner life; what does that mean and why bother? Ultimately we all part of the same systems; we interact, conform, resist, seek out connection and have a desire to find our place of belonging. Unfortunately, we are living in a time of many broken and out-dated systems. We have a dated educational system, a broken food chain and career pathways which no longer serve us well. So why is it so hard to change systems to better suit us?
Systems change is about addressing the root causes of social problems, which are often intractable and embedded in networks of cause and effect. It is an intentional process designed to fundamentally alter the components and structures that cause the system to behave in a certain way. Systems thinking also requires an acceptance of unpredictability and loss of control that runs counter to most models of leadership and accountability.
I think we can make these big system changes best by starting with ourselves. When setting up or running your enterprise, ask yourself these questions;
Are we as open as we claim to be?
Are we as courageous as we ask others to be?
Do we bear as much risk as we ask grantees to hold?
Are we as humble as we should be?
Are we sharing power?
Are we sharing learning as much we should?
For an individual to become ‘more conscious’ is a story of personal growth, not ever easy but always worth it.
Best said by the folks at Perspectiva, “When we develop a deeper reflexive awareness of the ways in which we are shaped, when we start to commit to such processes together, we can speak of a more conscious society – a collective effort to see our challenges in their fullness, and thereby live larger and less deluded lives. When a critical mass of people ‘grow’ in consciousness in this way we can speak of a collective awakening.”
This collective responsibility coupled with personal attention to individual growth is powerful. It no longer gives any airtime to the ridiculous notion that working on yourself is somehow selfish. It is your duty to tend to your soul and your soul contributes to the whole.