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Ok, I’m going to say this really quickly……. Christmas is just around the corner and ignoring it won’t make it go away.

Quite possibly the work social function will already be organised. Invites for social functions will be turning up and children will be counting down the weeks until exams/school finishes.  If you haven’t thought about any of it yet then it’s time to start thinking about the gifts to buy, trees to decorate and where you’re going to spend Christmas day. The food needs to be planned and if you have holidays as well then you better start getting them organised! Accommodation, food, activities, travel plans, pet care…. and all this on top of already, often, very busy lives. I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

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I’ve been writing a lot, lately, about personal foundation, e.g needs, values, boundaries and standards, and how to integrate them into our lives. I was first introduced to these concepts 14 years ago and now they are fairly ingrained! However, even now I can say, I don’t always get it right. I’m not always as fast to respond as I’d like to in some situations. On the whole, I don’t mind that. I’m not aiming for perfection. Rather I’m open to continuing to refine my responses and reactions, to learn and grow. Every now and then something really irks me though and I wish I had been more forthright, quicker to respond, bolder to stand up for something I believe in. Life served me up one of those moment a few weeks ago. Funny how it all coincided with what I was writing about at the time, a real time lesson in living by my values!

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Once a month, since February, we’ve taken a look at various aspects of creating a strong personal foundation. Building a strong foundation gives you a good solid base to build a life you’re happy to be living. It doesn’t mean that your life will be hassle free and full of fluffy kittens and unicorns with not a worry in the world. I’d need a magic wand to arrange that!

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Hands up if you can think of someone who always manages to turn the conversation back to themselves? You could be talking about the latest film you’ve seen, a book you’ve read, a meal you’ve had with friends, politics, religion, your favourite colour…… anything, yet still they have the ability to swing the conversation back around, turning the spotlight firmly on themselves. Any chance of a decent conversation disappears under their spotlight in the flurry of “me, me, me”. Sociologist, Charles Derber called this tendency “conversational narcissism”, the desire to take over a conversation, to do most of the talking, and to turn the focus of the exchange to yourself.

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It’s been said before “opinions are like noses, everyone has one”. Not only do most people have opinions, some can have them on an astonishing number of topics! In fact, it’s possible to have an opinion on, well, anything. Religion, music, art, fashion, food, sports, cars, books, people and lest we forget, politics. Now, in New Zealand, especially politics.

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In the last column we looked at boundaries, those imaginary lines you draw around yourself to define how you wish to be treated. Boundaries are about what others cannot do to you or around you. Your boundaries act as a filter. Like most things in life there’s a flip side to boundaries – in this instance it’s your standards.

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About four years ago Dr Angela Duckworth (Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania) released research showing that it wasn’t just talent or IQ that predicted success in life but that possessing “grit” was also an important success indicator. She should know something about grit having left a successful career as a management consultant to teach maths at primary school. While teaching she became passionate about understanding why some children achieved and others didn’t. It wasn’t always the naturally gifted that succeeded. So, in order to understand what predicted success, she left teaching and went on to study psychology and gain her PhD (Doctorate of Philosophy). The difference, she concluded, after her study was “grit”.

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I’ve noticed when I work with people on boundaries the relatively simple concept can make people feel really uncomfortable. It seems there is fear around setting boundaries, usually because people are scared if they set boundaries they’ll upset others, push them away or be seen as stroppy.

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I’m not normally too bothered by winter, it comes, it goes. However, this year I’ve found myself getting really – let’s just say “irritated” by it. All my friends and colleagues will probably have heard me mutter “I’m over winter this year”. That’s a bit unfortunate as we’re only half way through the season. Now I don’t think I have seasonal affective disorder, a form of seasonal depression triggered by low daylight hours that effects melatonin production), I just think I’m in a bit of a winter funk and I don’t think I’m alone in that!

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All human beings have needs. They are neither healthy or unhealthy, good or bad, functional or dysfunctional. They are, simply, part of what drives us as humans. Needs must be met in order for us to be our best. To help understand them we can broadly divide needs into two main categories – physical and psychological (including emotional and spiritual). So that includes things such as ensuring we are fed, kept warm, kept safe, feel loved, valued, accepted, and see where we fit into the wider world around us. As we grow, it means forming friendships, intimate relationships and finding value in what we do.

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