What are you doing this weekend?

This must be the most popular question asked in offices around the world today. Normally the answers are “not much” or something big and exciting. It seems that if you aren’t doing one or the other, it isn’t worth mentioning. I personally think it is a shame that we seem to only be able to answer in one extreme or the other.

My favourite answer to that question used to be “spending time with my wife” now it is “spending time with the family.” When did people start deeming these things not exciting enough to talk about? When did people think they weren’t worth mentioning? When did people get embarrassed to say these things?

I live for and love the weekends. My weekends are usually the best part of my week. Because I enjoy time with my family so much, I have started scaling back what I do outside of work to make sure I get as much time with them as I possibly can.

What we are doing isn’t important to me. It’s the spending the time together away from other things and distractions, which is the most important thing to me. Just spending time with my family is doing something. When you are asked if you are doing something, you don’t have to be doing an event or going somewhere in order to be doing something.

Don’t get me wrong I do like going out and doing things, but they are always more special if I am doing them with my family. Sharing an experience and having a joint memory is so much better than sharing a story later with someone who wasn’t there to experience it with you.

I hope I can encourage other people to be loud and proud about just enjoying spending time with friends and family over weekends. Don’t feel the rush to have to show off about what you are doing on a weekend, don’t feel like you have to. The truth in many situations is that the ones showing off would rather have the situation you have.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

So now Halloween, Bonfire Night and Remembrance Sunday are over, thoughts in the UK start to be casted towards Christmas: A season where we all get a bit busier preparing for the biggest day on the calendar and excitement levels start to build.

It maybe only mid November but the war for the best Christmas TV advert has already begun with John Lewis and Sainsbury’s leading the way.

The City most local to me has had it’s Christmas Lights switch on and Christmas events are starting to appear in my diary. Christmas is officially in full swing in my world. I love the fact that it isn’t just one day and that the build up to the day can be so exciting. I know Christmas for some is a challenging time but I am a full on lover of Christmas.

The most important thing about Christmas to me is holding on to the meaning of the season and celebrating the birth of Jesus and all that the event meant for the world. Whilst keeping that at the forefront of my mind, I also enjoy other activities the season brings.

I love how Christmas is a good way of getting people together and to socialise. I feel friends and family tend to make more of an effort around the Christmas period to see each other and spend time with each other. The time spent together is normally spent eating, drinking and laughing together. I love the mood that Christmas puts people in. I really notice people going out of their way to be nicer to each other.

The other thing I like is being generous to others at Christmas. I feel that the season brings the generosity out of many of us. I enjoy thinking of and buying gifts for people. I am currently deliberating over the best gifts to get my wife and I love trying to come up with the best presents I can for her. Also this year I am doing a sponsored run to raise money for a family whose story really touched my heart. I am so looking forward to passing on the money that I raise and I really hope that it gives them some joy and hope at Christmas.

Spreading Christmas joy is so much fun. There is nothing like putting a smile on the faces on others and it is a lovely feeling to know you have helped make someone’s Christmas a bit extra special.

I hope you are all looking forward to Christmas and getting carried away in the right ways.

How social media has blurred and damaged relationships

How much time do you spend talking to people online? How much time do you spend looking at peoples pages and feeds? When scrolling down your newsfeed to do you linger longer on some people’s updates more than others?

I think these are all important questions, that anyone using social media needs to ask themselves. For many people the real world isn’t enough and social media is treated as another life for them, which they think is better than the real world away from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Some people now look forward to getting on social media more than they do spending time with those around them.

Constantly logging on

I use social media and I am the first to put my hand up that I use it too much. I tend to however just use it for promoting things and sharing news, rather than talking to people on it. I think it is dangerous when you are constantly logging on to see if you have a notification and to see if someone has messaged you back. I get how it can be exciting, but when we start thinking that it is more exciting than what’s happening around us, I think it is a very sad place to be.

When you start your day thinking of something to say to someone on social media that is not communicating or having a conversation, as real conversations should come easy with real friends. Conversations shouldn’t be about just saying something to get noticed and that’s what I think social media is at times – a place for attention seekers wanting to be noticed.

Getting carried away

I think for some people it is too easy to get carried away on social media and let their thoughts get carried away. Sometimes I think people try to hard to get peoples attention and misinterpret feelings when someone pays them attention. People think it is ok to get carried away, as it isn’t real life and they may not ever meet the people they are talking with. I think it is important to always try and read the signs on social media when someone might be paying you too much attention or when you are paying someone too much attention and be wise enough to do something about it.

When social media is getting in the way of work or home life, I think your use of it is out of balance. My message for anyone who uses social media is – don’t take your home life for granted, just because it is always going to be there don’t treat it like it’s not the most important thing.

Secretive

If you are secretive about your use of social media, or if you only use it when away from your friends and family then you need to start asking yourself why you do this and you need to be honest with yourself.

In this modern age I think social media is the biggest destroyer and creator of relationships. We need as a generation to be able to build relationships and keep relationships without social media. Social media should be treated as another way to communicate and we should behave in the same way as we would with human interaction. When you spend more time talking to people on social media than off it, I think life is out of balance.

Don’t let yourself be fooled in to thinking life is better on social media than it is away from it. The most important investment you can make is in those people around you, those people who are in your life and those that you don’t just talk to on social media.

Generosity

My wife and I are expecting our first baby this year, an event that we are super excited about! One thing, which has bowled me over since the time we first announced this news to friends and family, is the generosity of others.

I love how life events like this one can bring out the generosity of others and give them the ability to be generous. I think on the whole we are a very generous world; we just all need that opportunity to be generous.

Accepting it

One thing that is hard for many people to do, is to accept generosity. As well as being a generous world we are also a proud world, which can make accepting generosity hard, but I think it is important that we all do, as accepting generosity encourages people to continue being generous.

When receiving generosity it is important to be thankful. Accepting generosity with a thankful heart and showing that thankfulness can mean the world to the person who is being generous to you and is worth more than anything else you could do for them in return.

Sharing

The thing with babies, is that there is normally someone you know or someone in your family that has had one and now has clothes & toys that are no longer being used. People don’t want to throw these things out, so most would want them to go to another child and want to free up the space in their house.

Babies grow up and grow out of things so quickly, so personally I don’t see the point in investing a lot of money in clothes. Don’t get me wrong we have brought a few things, which we like and can’t wait to put our child in but I would never go overboard as there are already so many nice baby clothes out there that aren’t being used and are looking for a new home. I don’t see the point in spending hundreds of pounds on things that will only be used for such a short space of time.

Not a charity case

Accepting things like clothes and toys from others doesn’t make you a charity case or poor, it just means people care for you and your family. Accepting these things is a wise financial decision and it means your money can be spent on other things to make your home and the life of your family the best it can be.

Try where you can to not question peoples generosity. No matter how much you question it, it doesn’t mean you will ever truly know someone’s intentions. Me personally, I like to believe the best in people, so I try not to go down that road.

Being generous to others

There will be periods of your life when you are on the receiving end of other people’s generosity but it won’t always be the case. There will be periods in your life when you are the one being generous to others, but it might be only by taking generosity now that it puts you in to a position to be generous to others later in life.

Never expect or plan to receive generosity just appreciate it when you do. People will show you generosity in many ways, some will be in possessions, some financial, some in time and some in care, just be ready to notice it when someone is being generous and acknowledge it.

The news is a scary thing

I was shocked when I opened up my Facebook last week and saw a local newspaper was requesting to be my Friend. Now I am all for newspapers having Facebook pages to promote their newspaper and news stories, which people can choose to like but I didn’t like that they had set up a personal account. Through this account they seemed to be actively friending people through it with no perceivable connection to the newspaper besides living in the area of which the newspaper covered.

Access

Should newspapers be allowed to have access to people’s personal updates and should they be actively wanting it? The only reason I could see for wanting Friends instead of Likes on Facebook, is to gather news without having to leave the desk in the office. With access to peoples Facebook profiles, it gives the newspaper quick access to people opinions and personal stories, which they may not want shared in a newspaper and spread to the community in which they live.

If a newspaper was to directly quote from a person’s Facebook account or base a story about information they share, then it could negatively impact that person in their community and could do untold damage to their relationships and mental wellbeing. The news shouldn’t be about invading our lives, it should be a reporting of things happening in the world, that we can choose to engage with at whatever level we feel comfortable.

Moving in the wrong way

I know newspapers are trying to move with the way the world is moving and trying to do everything as efficiently as possible, but I think this is a step too far. The newspaper market has come under massive attack from the digital revolution, so anything for them to grab attention and do things cheaply I’m sure appeals to them and I can’t blame them for this, so this is why I think we need industry standards, laws and government to look at things like this.

Now you mustn’t get me wrong, I have no problem with news companies searching the Internet to look at user generated content that users are happily sharing with the public. I think this is wise as it helps gauge opinion and helps get the human side of stories to put them in to balance. What I think is dangerous is this want for more and this thirst to know everything and to know more than competitors, which leads to things like them trying to connect with people who don’t share information outside their friends groups.

Information is dangerous

Why should a news company get to choose what information you share is relevant and worthy of using? Information in the wrong hands or used the wrong way is very dangerous. So my message to news companies would be to stop and think about the damage that could be caused before they think of doing something similar.

I voted with a click of a button and declined their friend request and all I can say is that I hope others do the same. I don’t want to live in a ‘news state’ any more than I want to live in a ‘police state’ but I fear things like this are bringing us closer to that.

Are you listening?

The older I get the more I notice that we live in a world where there are more people that want to talk than want to listen. The art of listening has been lost for many I believe, with people fighting to make sure theirs is the opinion voiced and that no one else can get a word in edge ways. Talking a lot and talking about what you want to talk about seem to be some badge of success in professional and social realms.

I am a listener and I believe without listeners this world and the people in it wont be as successful as all of them could be. I also think there is much to applaud in those people that actually think before they talk and that are able to say the right things at the right time. Quality and quantity are two very different things and if you have a lot of quantity in what you say, the quality will be lost.

We’ve all been in those meetings when people are just talking for the sake of talking, because they need to be seen to be leading the conversation or having opinions on things to justify their involvement. In meetings I think it is always important to ask the opinions of the quieter ones because normally they are the ones listening and the ones that will have interesting insight in to the issues at hand.

We’ve all been at those parties and social gatherings where people are trying to dominate conversations to try and be the ‘cool’ one, trying to show off or just trying to make sure they get to talk about what they want to talk about. Sadly I think its these people that struggle to notice when people aren’t listening, so they might as well be talking to a brick wall. In many cases the more you talk the more people around you are switching off.

Some people think that by talking a lot you can hide an inadequacy, a lack of knowledge and that it impresses. I personally think it just highlights these things and doesn’t impress.

So remember, just by talking it doesn’t mean people are listening. Communication is a two way street, the more you show that you can listen the more people will want to listen to you. The art of talking should be about people listening. Don’t forget its not just about the words coming out of your lips its about your relationship with the people you are talking to and how they perceive you. I would work on these things first before opening my mouth to speak as if you do, the words coming out of your mouth are going to mean so much more.

Ask yourself this question – did you learn more by listening or by talking today? To improve as a person I always think it is more important to learn about more things than you could ever get round to talking about in your lifetime.

Happy Christmas

Around the world at this time people are greeting each other with the words “Happy Christmas” or “Merry Christmas.” From strangers in the street, to those nearest and dearest to them, people are going out of their way to greet each other with festive greetings. There is a feel good factor in areas and places where Christmas is celebrated, however at this time we need to make sure we don’t forget the people for whom it is an unhappy time.

This time of year can make people feel lonelier than they already may be feeling and can make people dwell on sadder times than happier times. Christmas is an emotional time which can bring up a lot of different memories for different people, so don’t always assume that it is a happy time for your friends, family, colleagues and neighbours.

Just by someone saying Happy or Merry Christmas doesn’t mean it will be a happy or merry one for him or her. Lets keep an eye out for these people and make sure they don’t get forgotten about this Christmas. Lets make sure they know that they are loved and thought about. If you feel led to, why not invite them over to your home during the season. If you are talking to them in the street or on the phone take those extra minutes to really see how they are and make sure they know that they are in your thoughts.

I for one really enjoy Christmas with my family and I know millions of others around the world do too. To me it is a really special time that I really appreciate. It is one of my highlights of the year. I think it is a time of year we should enjoy and celebrate as much as we can. You shouldn’t feel bad or be made to feel bad for enjoying the season. We just need to remember those less fortunate or those who can’t enjoy this time for whichever reason.

Lets do our best to help as many people as possible have the best Christmas they possibly can.

Before I go on this edition of the blog I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the readers and followers of this website for your support this year. I also hope that this time of year is the best it can be for you and that it is even better than any Christmas you have ever known before.