The messages of hope that I wish I could share with my former self

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Photo by Lechon Kirb on Unsplash

It was a March day in 2006. I sat in the driver’s seat of a hired truck, my share of the marital possessions loaded meticulously in the back of it. My wife and I had just locked the door of our former marital home for the last time and were about to go our separate ways in life, metaphorically and literally.

We said our final farewell (albeit in a symbolic sense) and a few tears were shed. Having jointly resolved that we’d play an active part in raising our two daughters, then aged 6 and 3, we knew we’d be seeing each other regularly in the years that followed. …

It’s all about time.

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Photo by Sanah Suvarna on Unsplash

Like most who are driven to improve their lives, I’ve experimented with my morning routine over the years.

In 2015, as a newcomer to the world of personal development my morning routine seemed like an easy place to start — to strive to get more out of life by actually being awake for more of it.

But what to do once awake while the rest of the household slept on? The obvious answer was to experiment with the hacks, habits and practices of the rich and famous.

Meditation, journalling, exercise, creative writing, inspirational reading, cold showers, hot showers, breathing exercises, specific foods, drinks and supplements — all have featured in my morning routine over the last few years. …

Appealing to their better nature when they don’t appear to have one

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Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Trainee pilots are required to notch up 1,500 hours of flying time before they are let loose to fly solo or carry passengers. Malcolm Gladwell proposes that mastery of an art-form or skill requires 10,000 hours of practice to achieve.

Time spent in pursuit of role clearly correlates to ones ability to do it well.

It baffles me then, that with many thousands of cumulative hours as a parent and with many of those spent dealing with teenagers, that I still seem to struggle at times.

When it comes to navigating their moods, handling their whimsical demands and their social-media influenced expectations, each day can feel like starting from scratch once again. …

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Photo by Elia Pellegrini on Unsplash

Some days progress comes naturally, elegantly and effortlessly.

Motivation is in abundance. The right choices feel instinctive rather than laboured. Tasks are begun and completed seamlessly without procrastination or setbacks.

Our prevailing feeling is of inspiration.

On other days the opposite is true. The will to get started is scarce, as is the belief that we have what the task demands of us. We know what we should be doing but that’s seldom what we feel like doing. Our resolve to continue is strained to breaking point.

Desperation pervades.

The times when we most need a boost of inspiration are usually those when it’s hardest to come by. The times when we most need to pick ourselves up and get back on track are the times when it feels hardest to do so. …

#2 — Holding unrealistic expectations

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

In seeking a better life it’s often the things that I’ve quit, given up or just gracefully let go of that have made the most difference.

We tend to cling onto things, people and practices out of instinct— we do things the same way as we’ve always done them as it feels comfortable.

It’s hard to concede when something isn’t working for us and to let it go. …

Seeking simplicity, balance and inner peace over relentless growth and improvement

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Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

If I were to describe my approach to life over the last few years in a single word, it’d be intense.

Driven sounds too self-important — like trying to portray a self-congratulatory image of myself as a high flyer. The same goes for focused, purposeful or even motivated.

Describing it as intense is the best way I can find of capturing the feeling of doing anything and everything I could to try and achieve my goals for personal growth and development.

For years now, I’ve been doing everything I thought I needed to do to bring about the results that I felt compelled to strive for. Doing what I thought I should be doing instead of what I wanted to be doing (or even allowing myself to contemplate what I wanted to be doing). …

To hold on or to gracefully withdraw

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Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Grit. Determination. Resilience.

Rhetoric tells us that those most likely to make it big are those who refuse to quit — the ones who face into challenges and cling on in the pursuit of their goals like a hungry dog with a juicy bone.

There’s a lot to be said for being single-minded. We’re told that the path to great accomplishments will likely be strewn with obstacles to overcome and woe betide those whose instinct is to throw in the towel at the first sign of trouble.

Failures yield the lessons that fine tune the craft. Practice makes perfect. Fortune favours the brave. …

Hoping to kill two birds with one stone

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Photo by mana5280 on Unsplash

The time seems right to make a plea to Donald Trump to do the right thing — to appeal to his better nature (not that I’m convinced he has one) and ask him to step away from everything.

While I’m at it I thought I’d try and be as efficient as possible, taking out his self-appointed ‘mini-me’ Nigel Farage with the same message.

In case you’ve not had the pleasure, Farage is the UK’s own Trump tribute act — not even a good tribute; more of the calibre you’d expect to encounter in a gloomy, sweaty underground bar in the rough part of town on a Thursday night. …

Advice from a Doctor who cares for the dying

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Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

My father-in-law recently passed away from advanced prostate cancer. For the last week of his life he was cared for at home by his wife, his daughters and a team of nurses from a local hospice.

His passing was an inevitably sad time but made a lot more bearable by the environment in which he passed and the compassionate care provided by such kindly professionals. Their vocation is to devote their lives to helping others as theirs is coming to an end — such selflessness is awe inspiring to me.

We were at his bedside when he died. In the aftermath there have been many emotions and thoughts to process. In truth I’m still working through many of these. …

We ALL fail eventually

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Photo by Isabella and Louisa Fischer on Unsplash

Right now, I’m waiting.

I’ve got a conference call at 10am that fell into my calendar unexpectedly. It’s from someone sufficiently high-up at work, and at sufficiently short notice that it can’t possibly be good news.

I’m also waiting for clarity about the US election results. Goodness knows why I care so much as a Brit — we’ve got our own struggles. But four years of Trump has been agonising enough to witness from the other side of the Atlantic and I can’t imagine how it must feel for those in the midst of his reign of orange evil. …


Toby Hazlewood

A writer, dad and husband sharing his thoughts, wins and losses to help and inspire others. Say hello at

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