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The good life

If you’re irritated with a person and you tell that person you’re irritated with them, and you tell someone else how much that person irritates you, are you likely become more irritated or less irritated with that person?

In the late 1930s  Harvard University in America started a study of Adult development involving  724 boys. One of the main intentions of the study was to see if there was any clear evidence for what helps towards having a “good life”.

The Study followed the entire lives of two very different groups of boys. One comprised of 268 of the “best and the brightest” Harvard College undergraduates and the other group were 456 disadvantaged boys recruited from Boston’s poorest neighbourhoods.

From the tens of thousands of pages of information generated from this study the most significant lessons learnt about living a ‘good life’ weren’t found in the importance of having wealth or fame or working harder. The clearest message was this: ‘Good relationships keep us mentally and physically happier and healthier’ … period. 

The biggest lesson revealed from this study was the quality of our social connections are the one single key to living what is experienced as a significant life. 

The study also highlighted good relationships didn’t  mean smooth sailing all the time.   In fact, those who had actively worked on their relationships were seen to experience deeper connections with  family, friends, and community. 

Another significant  finding was that doing well in our life and our relationships was more to do with how we treat other people than how we ourselves are treated. You Tube ‘The 30-day Kindness Challenge’ (well worth the watch) as a good example of  these findings.                                                                              

As I mentioned at the start, If you’re irritated with something about a person and you tell that person you’re irritated and you tell someone else how much that person irritates you, you are going to become ‘more irritated’ not less irritated with that person. 

The sobering truth is, complaining about a person doesn’t change the person we are complaining about, ‘it changes us’. We become more resentful, more bitter … more negative!  The opposite is also true. If we choose to look for the good in the person our attitude and outlook improves.

Here’s a challenge:  Pick one person you are willing to do a 30-day Kindness Challenge with. PS don’t tell that person.

By the way for this to work you have to be kind even when you don’t want to be!  Yes this challenge is hard … that’s why it’s called a challenge. 😊

  1. For 30 days say nothing negative to the person or about the person. 
  2. At least once a day for 30 days find one thing you can sincerely  praise the person for and tell them, and tell someone else. 
  3. At least once a day for 30 days do one act of kindness or generosity to that person. It needs to be an action that person would see as significant. 

We have the power to build people up or tear them down. It’s our choice in how we use that power.  This power has the potential to not only change them but us as well. 

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Don’t be yourself

Don’t be yourself

I love the joke where a husband in a rare romantic moment leans over and softly whispers in his wife’s ear, “I’m the only one in your life, aren’t I?”  The wife gently turns to look at her beloved man and with a smile on her face, whispers back, “Of course you are dear, all the others were nines and tens.” 😊

There’s the thought out there saying to ‘just be yourself,’ as if being yourself is the best you could be.  The flaw in this view is the assumption there’s nothing about you that needs changing.

I don’t know about you but my life has at times highlighted significant need for personal change.


[Details of this story are altered]

I sat in my office with a 75yr old who’d been sent to me via a Health Professional that couldn’t find anything of a physical nature wrong with him. The 75yr old didn’t believe I could help and with arms folded in defiance looked at me and said, “ok fix me then.”

In talking with him he shared how he’d suffered from major stress in his life that he blamed on his family and employers. He also shared he was disconnected from his adult children which he put down to “their issues.”

Long story short, after asking a few questions it didn’t take him long to realize his own thinking patterns had significantly contributed to his frustrated life.

His comment to me when seeing this was, “you have just made me feel worse.”

When I asked why he replied “I should have come to you thirty years ago.”

He then went on to say he wasn’t listening to anymore of this and proceeded to walk out of my office.  I tried to help him understand he now had a wonderful opportunity to begin restoring relationships, but sadly he wasn’t willing to own his portion of that responsibility.


One of the most challenging questions we can ask ourselves is; ‘What stupid thing am I doing on a regular basis to screw up my life?’  You have to really want to know the answer to this question because it’s frighteningly easy to ignore or deny the truth.


A large part of our time and energy is spent looking out for our own comfort and protection.  However, choosing to live in that space long term will restrict the potential for our lives.

As an author I recently read put it “If it doesn’t push you to the limit you are unlikely to gain anything valuable from it. You don’t get the gold (reward) without the dragon (risk).”

Until we are able to reassure ourselves that failure isn’t fatal; it’s just a learning opportunity we’ll struggle to risk stepping out beyond ourselves to make the changes needed to grow.

If we start with small consistent steps towards personal growth it can be very satisfying to see how far we can get in a relatively short period of time.

Who knows maybe even becoming a nine or a ten 😊

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Several years ago I had the privilege of getting to know a couple who’d recently moved into the district to start a local business. This is an abbreviated version of a story they shared with me.

Their daughter Sarah (not her real name) had been born with spina bifida and was not expected to live beyond her first few years. However, despite numerous operations and trips to hospital she defied those predictions

Due of her condition, Sarah was not able to walk and became confined to a wheelchair. Sarah would often comment how she longed to run and play like other children her age, but because she wasn’t able to, she developed a love for reading and especially enjoyed the Bible stories.

At the age of ten and with her health progressively deteriorating Sarah was admitted once again to hospital. Her body was becoming more fragile with each passing setback and her stays in hospital were becoming longer. One day while on a hospital visit from her aunty, Sarah candidly and calmly told her aunty she was not going to live much longer.

To downplay Sarah’s frank comment, her aunty told her that she was sure she would be fine, just like all the other times.

Sarah did get to go back home, but this time her recovery was considerably slower and she spent all her time in bed in her room.

Sarah’s mother shared with me that for many days, every morning when she walked into Sarah’s room and pulled back the curtains Sarah would ask the same rather unusual question, “Has the cherry tree come out in blossom yet?”

It was early spring in Central Otago and outside her room stood a lovely old cherry tree. Her mum would check the tree for signs of blossom and say to Sarah, “No, sweetheart, not yet.”

This little ritual continued for a while until one day when pulling back the bedroom curtain Sarah’s mum noticed the first blossoms were indeed now beginning to show themselves, so with excitement she told Sarah that she could see the first flowers beginning to appear.

On hearing this and with a gentle smile Sarah told her mum that she would be going home today. Confused Sarah’s mum said, “but sweetheart, you are home.”

With her mum and dad at her side Sarah passed away peacefully that afternoon.

I share this as a reminder of another very real dimension at play in this earth realm, one not experienced with our physical senses.

It’s a reminder that when our body dies, it may be the end of our body but it’s not the end of our life. And for Sarah no more need for a wheelchair.


As someone, who was fully aware of this unseen realm, once said to me while lying in a hospital bed, “I suspect at the moment I die I’ll be more alive than ever.”


Let’s not make the mistake of only relating to this world with our physical senses. There is way more going on than they detect.

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Thanks for the hand

Thanks for the hand

I’m reminded or the joke about a person that was walking along the top of a high cliff admiring the view of the ocean as it stretched out into the distant horizon, when in a moment of distraction, they lost their footing and began to fall towards the rocks below. Thrusting out their hand in absolute panic they managed to grab hold of a small tree growing out from the baron cliff face. Hanging there, with no way up and only one way down the person in desperation cries out, “Help, is there anybody up there?” To their shock they hear a voice speak back, “Yes it’s me, God, just let go and I will catch you.” Pausing a moment to take in the unexpected reply the person then calls out again, “Is there anybody else up there!?”

I don’t know about you but if I wake in the middle of the night and start thinking about something that’s concerning me it seems to have the potential to escalate from concern to anguish way quicker than it might have if I was thinking about the same thing during the day. I suspect that’s due to feelings of hopelessness that can come from being alone in the dark.   With no point of reference for a healthy perspective our feelings can quickly take us to places of despair.

A number of months ago I was driving to Cambridge to see some clients. With a half hour drive ahead of me, my mind drifted to thinking about the state of our Nation … and where we’re heading as a society …  and what our country might look like in twenty years’…  and the effect that might have on my children … and more particularly my grandchildren … and then to top it off it looks like there’s a virus that’s threatening to spread its way around the whole world!

I was building up a full head of steam in my ‘escalating rant’ when I was stopped short by a sense that God had entered into my conversation and was saying to me “Alan the issues you’re going on about are not the real issue, ‘I’ AM’ (a name God gave himself in the Old Testament). Your puffing and panting and ranting and raving haven’t finally got my attention about the woes of the world, I am fully aware of what’s going on. I’ve got the big picture; you just do what your called to do.”

When I heard Him say that to me, I instantly felt a burden lift from my shoulders. It was a great relief to be reminded that despite all that’s happening He’s still in control.

Anxiety and fear are not primarily generated from the situations we find ourselves in but from the view we have of those situations.

We don’t know what the future holds but there’s a wonderful reassurance available when we reach out and take hold of the hand of the one who does.

All the best in your bubbles and beyond

Regards, Alan

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Thank goodness for Lighthouses

Thank goodness for Lighthouses


The story is told of an American Navy ship sailing in thick fog during an exercise off the coast of England. Up ahead the battleship sees a light coming towards them.

Fearing a collision, the ship’s captain gets the signal man to flash a signal to the approaching ship; “Sir, turn your ship 10 degrees south.”

Up through the fog came back the signal; “No, you sir turn your ship 10 degrees north.”

Well that made the captain angry as they moved closer to this collision. So, he sent a signal back; “I am an Admiral, turn your ship 10 degrees north.”

To which the reply came back through the fog; “I am a first-class seaman, you sir turn your ship 10 degrees south.”

This response infuriated the captain, so he sent a signal back saying; “I am the captain of a battleship, turn your ship 10 degrees south.”

Back through the fog came the reply; “Sir, I am a lighthouse, you turn your ship 10 degrees north.”


I like this story because it’s a reminder that regardless of how powerful or important some may think they are, there are some things we are all completely at the mercy of.

There are a number of ways to look at life, one is the belief we are all born good and it’s therefore only the oppressive external influences in our life that cause us to behave in negative ways. With this view, the role of society is to bring influence on our culture to free us from the oppression this produces.

This perspective sees many of our society’s rules and regulations as oppressive influences restricting us from the freedom life offers. The primary goal with this view is to therefore progressively dismantling these restrictions in order to become free.

Another view on life  is  the belief we are all born with the need to be corrected and guided into what’s right and it’s therefore the role of society to implement the guidelines needed  to achieve the freedom that living within these boundaries offer.

This perspective sees the primary goal being the maintaining of these rules and regulations as they are the protective perimeters around our society enabling us to become free.

Two polar opposite ways of seeing things that inform how we live out our lives.


My view is, just as a river without banks becomes a swamp, or a tree that’s not pruned and a garden that’s not tended won’t produce healthy crops, so  we also need active boundaries in our life to enable us to live well. A bit like a playground needs a protective fence around it to restrict danger from coming in and the wayward from easily getting out and being hurt. Freedom is therefore found within the safety of the fence.


Lighthouses are strategically placed to highlight the presence of danger to passing ships. Shooting the lights out of the lighthouse doesn’t make the danger go away it just hides it from any future approaching vessels.

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Turning down the heat.

Turning down the heat.

Dad was forty-three and mum thirty-six when they married. I was their third child so dad was getting on in years when I came along.

As a little kid I played schoolboy rugby on a Saturday. In all the time I played I only remember dad coming to watch me once. Looking back, it’s not hard to see dad’s love was expressed in how hard he worked trying to provide for us all. However, children are good absorbers of information but poor interpreters of that information and can easily come to wrong conclusion about themselves and their world.

For me the conclusion I came to was, since dad, the ‘big’ person in my life, wasn’t interested in watching me play rugby, I must be insignificant and unimportant.

I guess it’s not hard to see how a little kid could come to that conclusion.

I lived out of that belief for a long time, reinforcing the thinking along the way with other experiences that pressed my ‘I’m insignificant button’.

Our emotional hurts are a bit like having a painful ingrown toenail … it feels like everyone just wants to stand on it, and when they do it hurts like hell.


Just as our physical body has pain senses indicating areas needing attention, we also have emotional pain senses indicate hurts needing healing.

For me as I grew into my teen’s I discovered alcohol dulled that emotional pain.

Believing I was insignificant, I automatically thought people weren’t really interested in me, but, after a few beers I forgot that and became quite a different person, which as you might imagine caused its own set of issues. As many of us have learned alcohol doesn’t solve problems it irrigates them.


As I got older, I realized that neither the drink nor the passing of time was helping, so I decided to go on a search to see if there was anything that might.

It was through this I came to understand ‘time’ alone doesn’t heal, ‘truth’ does. In fact, the saying, “when the river runs low the rocks begin to show” indicates that the passing of time doesn’t actually heal issues – it reveals them.


I discovered that lasting healing was found by getting beneath the presenting problem and dealing with the power source behind it.

Just like a stove element on high causes the water in the pot to bubble over, so too our stink beliefs bring heat into our lives causing stink behavior, bubbling over as anger, anxiety, withdrawal, and the like.


Because we were all once children, we are all susceptible to having formed beliefs about ourselves and our world that may still be ‘infecting’ us.  And until these are dealt with, the proverbial element stays on high.


In my search for answers I found tools and insights that truly helped me to turn my element down.


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We are all worth $10

We are all worth $10

If I held up a ten dollar note and asked the question, “Who can tell me what this is? And how much is it worth?” You would answer it’s a ten dollar note and its worth that because it comes from the Government printing press and has the Governor of the Reserve Banks signature on it.

Now, if I threw the ten dollar note on the ground and stood on it how much would it be worth? The answer of course is still ten dollars.

How about I screwed it up in my hand? or what if I dipped it into a bucket of cow manure?

How about I spat on it?  Yep … all still ten dollars.

What if someone said it was only worth two dollars?

Or use your imagination, what if the Ten dollars could talk and said, “I’m not even worth the paper I’m printed on.”

You see, the notes value comes from where it’s made and whose signatures on it, not from what’s happened to it, or what it, or others might think or say about it.


How about you…what are you worth…what gives you your value?

What about when you have been stomped on or spat on?

What about when you feel all screwed up … or you have screwed up?

Or when you have had something done to you and you feel like s#*t … (cow manure)?

How about when someone tells you your worthless?

Or when you tell yourself your worthless?


Our true value isn’t found in what others think of us, or in what we might think of ourselves. Having our worth in those places leaves us far too vulnerable to the ups and downs of people’s moods and emotions.

Like the ten dollar note, our value is found in where we come from and whose signature we have on us.

God reminds us we have all been created in His image, so that means our worth is secure. It also means we are all worth the same. No one is worth more and no one is worth less.


We may, and should, express our unique personalities and abilities differently but our worth and significance is steadfast and unchangeable.


Imagine a world where we lived out of the potential of our true value and we encouraged others to live out of, and celebrate, their potential. Imagine a world where we didn’t see someone as worth more than someone else and a world where we didn’t see someone as worth less than someone else.

A world where we didn’t celebrate arrogance or ignore brokenness. A world where we celebrated each other’s significance.                                                                                                                                                                                  A world where we understood we all matter… profoundly.


We all place our worth in something. Mistakenly, for many, it’s in things like, our wealth, our achievements, our looks, or the wounds from our past.

It’s interesting to note that what we place our worth in influences us more than ‘any other single thing’.

Where have you placed your worth, and what effect is that having on you?


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Over the years I’ve helped build a house or two. If I hadn’t done this, then one thing that wouldn’t be obvious, is just how much time and effort go into preparing the foundations for the house to sit on. You also realise that if you don’t do the necessary groundwork then in time cracks in walls and floors may appear. Poor workmanship, shortcuts, and inferior building materials will compromise the quality of the final product.


It’s not hard to see this as a good analogy for developing a secure long-lasting relationship.   Like the building process, if we don’t put the effort in at the beginning, then down the track…if not sooner, issues (cracks) compromising the strength of the relationship will show up.


One of, if not the most important materials needed in forming the foundation for a strong and healthy relationship is, ‘Trust’


Imagine having a relationship with your partner where you’re able to share the deepest issues of your soul, your deepest hurts and fears, hopes and dreams, and know you were safe. Safe from criticism, safe from being ignored, safe from being misunderstood, safe from being belittled or hurt.


Real intimacy is found by becoming vulnerable enough to allow the other to see into the depth of your being. But the only way that can happen ‘safely’ is when one builds enough trust with the other to risk making themselves that vulnerable.


The relationship that offers the potential for this to happen best, is found in the coming together of a couple under the commitment of spending a lifetime with each other… for better-or worse, for richer-or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.


In the early stages of a relationship as situations arise, consciously or subconsciously, you’re asking yourself the question “Can I trust you in this? Can I trust you with our finances? Can I trust you to tell me the truth? Can I trust you with confidentiality? Can I trust you with my sexually? Can I trust you with my souls’ deepest hurts?

Life with its ups and downs provide the opportunities needed to demonstrate your trustworthiness or to learn to become trustworthy.


Fallouts and stuff ups are a fact of life, so it’s not about avoiding these, it’s about working them through well enough to build a safe environment for trust and respect to grow.

And ‘when’ we do stuff up, effectively expressing a genuine regret for your behaviour, and then receiving forgiveness, offers the opportunity to clear the way for trust to ‘begin’ to be rebuilt.


Achieving this quality of relationship doesn’t happen by chance. It takes courage and a genuine commitment to put your relationship with each other above your own self-interest.


What kind of dwelling do you want to live in with your loved ones? A cold unstable house or a warm secure home?

To a large degree you get to determine that. Because, ‘the love a couple has for each other is the fire that keeps their family safe and warm.’


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Golden Queen Peaches

I’m one of six boys in my family … no girls, Mum and Dad couldn’t afford daughters they were far too expensive.  We lived in a two-bedroom house on a quarter acre section in a rural town in the Hawke’s Bay.                                                                                                                                                                       As kids we were terrified of one of our neighbours, an old widow by the name of Mrs Jellico. We believed Mrs Jellico had an underground dungeon, where, if she got the chance, she would drag little boys, cut them up and eat them. (One of the older brothers most likely seeded that thought).

Mrs Jellico had a beautiful Golden Queen peach tree in the middle of her back lawn, and in the summer, we would climb onto our chook house roof, peer over the corrugated iron fence and dare each other to jump down and get some.

One day I was particularly persuasive convincing one of my younger brothers that Mrs Jellico had gone out, so in fear and trepidation he climbed over the fence onto Mrs Jellico’s lawn.                       I was whispering words of encouragement from the safety of the chook house roof as he nervously walked towards the tree when, to both of our horrors, Mrs Jellico stepped out her back door and yelled “what do you think you’re doing”?                                                                                                                    I shouted “run” but in overwhelming fear my brother put his hands over his eyes and froze.                 Looking back, I think he must have thought if he can’t see her then perhaps she can’t see him.    Eventually my cries to run convinced him that just standing there wasn’t a good idea, and making a beeline for the fence, he scrambled over to safety.

Looking at life, it’s not hard to see we live in a broken world where we face overwhelming situations with no idea how to cope, and, in our attempt to ‘survive,’ decide the only option available is to shut the memory out in the hope that ‘If I can’t see it, it can’t hurt me.’

Unfortunately, hiding it away doesn’t make it go away. In fact, ‘hiding it’ is the very thing that enables it to stay … and fester, soaking deeper into our soul, permeating through our lives as things like anger, guilt, shame, fear, anxiety and depression.

It’s like writing the letter ‘H’ (representing ‘Hurt’) on the palm of your hand and mistakenly thinking that by closing our hand the ‘H’ somehow mysteriously disappears.  However, taking the analogy further, if, after having closed my hand I can bring myself to open it again and face the ‘Hurt’ I then have the opportunity to process the pain; replacing the ‘H’ for ‘Hurt’ with H for ‘Healed.’

Thinking back to my childhood, I wonder what would have happened if our parents had introduced us to Mrs Jellico? Perhaps, rather than fearing her, we might have become friends. Imagine how many Golden Queen peaches we could have enjoyed eating then.

Wherever possible, let’s muster the courage and support needed to make peace with our past so it doesn’t continue to infect our present.

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You ain’t no ugly duckling

In the well-known children’s fable, ‘The Ugly Duckling’, when did the ugly duckling become a beautiful swan? The answer is that it always was a beautiful swan; it just didn’t recognise it, until it saw its own reflection.

As we look at ourselves, many of us at best see a marred reflection of who we are really meant to be.

I believe life’s great quest is to rediscover whose image we were created in. And then live in the dignity, freedom and potential that reclaiming this image makes available to us.

Here are some thoughts that I hope might help nurture that image.

  • Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else.
  • Great love and great achievement involve great effort.
  • Failure is not fatal. Learn from the lesson and move on.
  • Be responsible for your own actions.
  • Though you can’t go back to make a new past, you can start now to make a new future.   
  • First we make our habits, and then our habits make us.
  • Regular recreation (re-creation) is essential for a healthy life.
  • To keep perspective on life, spend regular time alone with God.  
  • The pain of discipline does not last as long as the pain of disappointment.
  • “No, life’s not fair!” So whatever hell you are going through, hold onto God’s hand, and keep going!
  • If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly while we learn to do it better.     
  • We did not choose to become a victim, but it is our choice whether we stay one.
  • Take care of your physical body; its continued existence gives you the right to live on this planet.
  • Feelings are not facts. Feelings are to serve us not master us. Truth is our guide not emotion.
  • One of life’s greatest sadness’s is not found in aiming too high and missing it, but in aiming too low and reaching it.
  • Respect the earth as it’s a precious gift given to us to care for.
  • ‘Secure’ self-worth is found in knowing the love, forgiveness and acceptance God offers through Jesus.  
  • Always seek to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
  • We have all been given gifts/talents; fulfilment is found when we are able to express these in loving, creative ways.
  • Don’t confuse forgiveness with trust. Forgiveness is given, but trust is earned.
  • You don’t defeat darkness by wrestling with the darkness, you defeat it by bringing in the light.
  • Be gentler on others than necessary because just about everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
  • The main thing God gets out of your life is the person you become and the main thing you get out of your life is the person you become.