Want to know the kind of life I advocate for?  This…

1.  Toss out the TV

It’s the ultimate time waster!  Just think of all the hours wasted, staring mindlessly at a light-box.  Life is full of wonderful adventures waiting to happen.  Don’t waste it away staring at a screen, watching Reality TV, soap operas and bad movies.

2.  Seriously re-think your job

If you wake up every morning with a smile and a sense of purpose – awesome! yay!  If, however, you wake up every morning with a deep sense of dread… then maybe it’s time to re-think a few things about your job.  Change doesn’t necessarily happen overnight – but everyone can take baby-steps towards the life (and the job) of their choosing.

3. Think twice before you buy more “stuff”…

Why buy STUFF when you can spend your money on experiences and adventures instead?  Instead of getting in to debt and accumulating more stuff – rather go camping for the weekend with your kids… or visit a museum or an art gallery together… or picnic at the end of an airport runway, watching the planes coming in to land while you pop strawberries into your mouth and listen to Bill Withers… or invite friends over for board games and wine… or play dress-up with the kids.

Make memories with your loved ones!  Can “things” and “stuff” and expensive shoes and name-brand bags really compare?  (Me thinks not).

Here’s a brilliant website packed with inspiration and food for thought.

4.  Don’t buy glossy magazines that make you (or your kids) feel shitty about yourselves.

ugly beauty

Nuff said.

5.  Be completely honest with your kids.  

Life is too short for long lists of “taboo” topics of conversation.  Say sorry when you’ve done something wrong.  If you don’t know the answer to a question, say: “I don’t know – but maybe we can find out together”.

When they ask about sex, answer them honestly and openly.  Tell them the truth when you’re feeling a bit low.  Don’t, I beg you, wear “The Mask”.  That fake, everything-is-fine-sweetie facade… that kids can see through straight away!  Be REAL with your kids – they can handle it.

6.  Do away with big name-brands entirely.

Your worth is not determined by the watch you wear, the car you drive or the bag you carry!

Kids – especially – need to understand that their worth and value is NOT determined by some magical “coolness factor”… or what brands of shoe they wear… or what expensive phones they own.  They are already valuable and worthwhile – exactly as they are (sans “stuff”!!).

7.  Don’t be a slave to fashion

creative hat

I used to dress like this when I was younger… then I succumbed to the pressure to *fit in* and, for a long time, I sacrificed my uniqueness in order to please others.

Don’t let other people dictate what you can or can’t wear.  Stop worrying about what’s “in” or what’s “out”.  Wear what you like.  Wear what’s comfy.  Wear what makes you feel confident.  Wear what’s “you”.

And that includes mullets, crocs, socks-with-sandals, facial hair, tattoos, piercings, tassels, blue hair… whatever!

Who invents these so-called fashion-rules, anyway?  Do famous fashion designers / fashion editors / fashion critics get special rights to dictate to the world what they “should” or “shouldn’t” wear?  And why do we feel the need to listen to anyone who tries to dictate our personal style?

Embrace your uniqueness – and wear whatever-the-fuck you want!!

8.  There’s many alternatives to The Mall.

Malls sell lots of over-priced crap that you don’t need.  The music is loud… the people are louder… there’s crowds, and queues and lots of artificial light and fake plants.  I visit malls for two reasons:  banks and movies (almost every cinema in this city is buried within the bowels of a mall – or worse, a casino!).

We don’t “have” to go to the mall – most of us choose to go.  We go because of the convenience… because of the ample parking… because everything is under one roof.

I have a blog brewing about this…  “15 Awesome Alternatives to Shopping Malls” (watch this space!).

9.  Seriously THINK about the way you educate your children.

education

Don’t just go-with-the-flow… because “everyone else is doing it that way”… or “that’s the way it’s always been done”.

Think for yourself.  

Don’t let systems, governments, other people (or well-meaning relatives) think on your behalf.

Ask yourself (and your children) about what education is… and what dreams they have for their futures.  Discuss it… at great depth… at great length.  Research all the other options.  And then make an informed decision on what will work best for your family.

Here’s some nice meaty questions (that I wished my parents had asked themselves – or me – before they sent me off to wither in schools that harmed more than helped me):

  • What is education?  Is it something that somebody “does” to you?  Or is learning and curiosity natural dimensions of every human being?
  • How do we foster a genuine love of knowledge in our children?  Do schools foster a love of knowledge?  Did our schools (when we were kids) foster a love of knowledge in us?
  • How do we learn?  Do we learn by doing something ourselves?  Experimenting with something?  Creating something new?  Seeing something for ourselves?  Or – do we learn by means of lectures, text books and standardised testing?
  • Can you remember anything you were taught in high school?  How much can you remember?
  • Can you remember any of the content of any standardised tests that you took?
  • How much of what was taught in high school are you actively using in your life today?
  • The skills that you’re currently good at – the things you do really well:  who taught you those skills?  How did you learn them?
  • Where does the school curriculum come from?  Who designed it?  Could there be anything in the school curriculum that might have some kind of hidden political agenda?  (I’m not a conspiracy-theorist.  The only reason I ask this question is because I’ve experienced that political agenda first-hand.  While we were at school, the apartheid government designed the school curriculum – and history lessons – particularly – were skewed deeply towards the stories of the Afrikaans Voortrekkers.  Our history lessons deliberately and purposefully removed any mention of the history of South Africa from… an African perspective!).  Obviously not inferring that every – or even most – educational curriculums come with hidden agendas – but I think it’s important to ask the questions anyway.
  • What is your child passionate about?  What are your child’s natural talents?  Will school offer her growth and confidence in those areas?
  • How does your child learn?  Does she like to touch… experiment… DO?  Does she like to LOOK at something?  Is she attracted to visuals?  Does she like to listen?  Does she like to work in a team – or ask lots of questions?  Will her school acknowledge and work within her unique parameters of learning?
  • I have many more (but this blog is going to be way too long by the time I’m done!).

There are many different options (apart from public school)… there’s homeschooling, unschooling, world-schooling, private schools, Montessori schools, private tutors, online schools and online tutoring, Waldorf schools… and lots more.

I’m not trying to say that everyone should follow our “schooling” choices – I know it’s not for everyone.  What I’m saying is this:   Don’t just blindly follow along after everyone else.  Think for yourself.  Decide for yourself.

10.  Travel!

nigeria

Get out of your comfort zone and travel!  Visit nearby, unexplored places (close to home)… and adventure further afield on weekends.

Best of all:  travel internationally – and even better:   travel to 3rd world nations where people live very differently to you!  I can’t say it enough:  travel!  travel! travel!

11.  Shop differently

fruit

Support fair-trade initiatives.  Avoid all the cheap, crappy imports (again ask yourself the question:  WHY do I even want to buy this stuff?  Do I even need it?).  Shop at local markets, yard sales and family-run businesses.  Give as much financial support to the “little guy” as possible.  Big brands and enormous corporations are already way too powerful for their own good (and ours).  I’d rather spend my money where it counts.

Buy clothes from 2nd hand stores, charity shops and markets (some of the most unique and interesting bits and pieces can be found in charity stores!).  Or buy new clothes from local stores that support ethical trade and production.  Or commission somebody to sew clothes for you.

Buy food from local markets, street vendors & co-ops.  Avoid all the massive chain-stores and fast-food-joints (besides, the independent places offer food that’s so much YUMMIER, anyway!).

12.  Re-think Christmas presents and Birthday presents.

mom's present

My mom made an entire kitchen for Morgan – using old boxes and other bits of junk. She also made a car-mountain for Joah. If you’d like to see more pics, click here.

Instead of buying more crap-from-China… buy something meaningful from somewhere local and lovely.  Or make a little gift yourself (the best gifts I’ve ever received have always been the gifts that were personalised or created just for me).  Consider giving an “experience” as a gift – instead of a “thing”.  Offer your sister a movie-night, with coffee and cake afterwards.  Take your Mom for a pedicure.

There are so many options that can make gift-giving (and receiving) meaningful and special… instead of an obligation or expectation.

13.  Avoid branding your kids.

Why should we pay the makers of Barbie, Ben 10, Hello Kitty, Spiderman and Sponge Bob to advertise their products?  Why are we branding our kids from head-to-toe with advertising?  Because that’s what it is:  advertising!  We are advertising somebody else’s brand AND we’re paying them for it!

I don’t like branding my kids for a number of reasons.  I just hate the idea of brand-name clothing determining one’s so-called “coolness” factor.  I’ve had many discussions with young girls who tell me how the brands they wear (or don’t wear)… and the phones they carry (or not)… is what determines who they “are” amongst their school peers.

I’ve heard some say:  “I’d never be caught dead in a Mr Price store!”.  When I ask why, I’m told that it would be like committing social suicide.

I refuse to sign myself (or my children) up to that craziness.

My kids don’t need a clothing brand to tell them who they are!

14.  Have a family sing-along

This used to be a family tradition for us.  I would play the piano, my sister would play the guitar, my mom would play the mouth organ and my dad would sing and play percussion (and the triangle).

I know it sounds uber-cheesy — but it’s actually SO much fun!  (Crank up the “Guitar Hero” if you’re not interested in the old-fashioned way).

15.  Join a debate or discussion group

I attend two such groups.  The first is “Imagine” – on Sundays – where we discuss (and question!) everything to do with spirituality and morality (and everything in-between).  The second is “Rumble in the Pub”, a very diverse group of thinkers who meet once a fortnight to discuss and debate every imaginable “hot topic”.

I like both of these groups because they force me to think for myself and to create my own opinion on how I feel about certain things.  I think it’s GOOD for us (and our brains) to mingle with people who think differently – who don’t believe the same kinds of things that we believe – who challenge us to think outside of our culturally-imposed “boxes”… who “stretch” us (in a good way)…

I often don’t agree with what everyone has to say… but that’s the whole point.  And even better – both groups are run in a very respectful manner – where ALL opinions are valued.  There is no “right” or “wrong” way of thinking – everyone is given a place to talk… and share… and disagree (respectfully)… and question.

I love it!

16.  Go on a Family History Tour

Earlier this year, we went on a Family History Tour with my mom.  She took us to the places where she grew up, showed us where she went to school and her favourite places to hang out.  She took us to the church we she married my dad – and we visited the graves of her parents.  We took lots of photos and she shared lots of stories.

fht

My mom – pointing out where her bedroom used to be (when she was a child).

I would strongly recommend a Family History Tour.  Ask your parents or your grandparents to share their stories with you (and with your children).  Ask them to show you their old photos… and to take you to the places where they were born and raised.  It’s fascinating… it teaches you about your heritage… and it’s a lovely way to bond with family.

We’re planning for a second Family History tour later this year – this time, to England – with my Dad and my half-sister.  Can’t wait!

17.  Give away surprise packages…

Make someone’s day by leaving them an little gift or card (anonymous or not).  If the waitress at your local coffee shop seems a little low, scribble her an encouraging little note that will make her smile.  Leave a chocolate on the desk of a colleague who is having a bad day.  Leave a pretty flower in an unexpected place.  Write a little card of thanks to the person who cleans the toilets in your office building – leave it in the bathroom where she can find it.  Leave a lovely cake in the kitchen at your work place – with a big note saying “help yourselves!”.  There are many… many… ways that we can make the world a nicer place – even in the smallest ways (and it makes us nicer people too!)  🙂

18.  Write and post a letter.

joah post

I don’t know about you – but I love receiving something nice… and unexpected… and hand-written… in the mail.  Mostly, our mailbox is stuffed with bills and advertising leaflets.  It’s such a pleasant surprise when somebody sends a card or a note!  Writing and posting letters is fast becoming a lost art – and yet, it’s such a lovely way to connect.

Write and post a letter to someone!  My son, Joah (4), wanted to post his hand-drawn postcards to people around the world.  It has been such a fun project – for both of us (and a big hit with the people who have received the postcards).

19.  Toss out The Scale

scale

A weighing instrument does not measure your worth.  If you are the type of person (like me) who sinks into a depression (depending on what the scale says)… toss it out!  Better still:  smash the sucker to bits!  It’s therapeutic – I promise you!

20.  Break a few Rules

It’s good for you.  Learn to QUESTION authority.  In fact, I believe that a healthy society will always question authority.  Don’t blindly obey every stupid rule thrust in your path… question the rules.   Question your government!  Dictatorships arise when the masses obediently comply.  Be the person who questions everything.  If something doesn’t make sense, then speak up and say:  “I don’t agree!  This just doesn’t make any sense to me!”.

21.  And since we’re on the topic of questioning…

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of healthy questioning when it comes to your religion.  Ask yourself the TOUGH questions – and ask other people those questions too.  Don’t just obediently comply – out of a sense of duty or obligation (or feelings of guilt because maybe maybe you’re not having-enough-faith).

There’s no such thing a stupid question… (just stupid answers).

22. Read the Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

… and remind yourself of what’s REALLY important in life.

23.  Visit a graveyard

bc

 Take your kids too.  Talk about life and death and what it means for your family.  Read the stories on the gravestones and chat to your kids about the people, and the talents, and the dreams all buried there.  Make a family commitment to live for the NOW… that you won’t just “survive” this life… or “get by”…  that you’re all choosing to suck the marrow out of life… and LIVE!

Everyone dies.  Not everyone lives.   Be the family that lives!

23.  Do something that scares you…

bridge swing

One of the scariest things I’ve done is jump off a bridge above the Gourtiz River canyon.  My entire body was quaking with fear and a thousand what-if’s…

  • “What if the rope breaks?”
  • “What if something goes horribly wrong?”
  • “What if I break all the bones in my body?”
  • “What if I die?”

As I stood on that jump platform, it really felt as though I was about to leap to my doom…  but when they counted me down, “Three, two, one… JUMP!” – I didn’t hesitate.  I jumped.

It was terrifying – yes.  But it was something I wanted to do – something I wanted to try.  I wanted to test the experience for myself (I was tired of hearing friends and colleagues rave about adrenaline sports – I also wanted to have a go!).  I knew that if I chickened out, I would always regret it.

And yes – I’m glad I jumped off that bridge!  It was one of life’s most special experiences.  I now know that while I absolutely love the thrill of the “swing” part – I don’t like the “falling” part.  Falling 50m was enough for me.  I don’t want to fall like that again.

But I did it.  It scared me silly – but I did it anyway.  And the experience taught me a few things about myself.

I’ve done other things that have scared me.  I’ve quit my horrid job (whilst not knowing where I’d find money to pay the bills).  I’ve sold my stuff so I could travel.  I have travelled internationally – alone (for 4 months) – and later, I moved to a new country (for a year) on my own.  All of those things were scary.  But I did them anyway – and I am so (!!) glad (!!) that I did.

Ask yourself this question:  “What would I do if I were not afraid?”

Now… do it!

24. Play!

play

We adults take life way too seriously.  For some reason, we’ve come to embrace this weird belief that “children play”… and that we, as adults, need to be more sensible… and… I dunno… “grown-up”?

Play is wonderful!  I’m talking all KINDS of play…  climbing on the jungle gym with your kids… playing hide ‘n seek… having shaving-cream fights… and mud fights… going on fun-fair rides… playing “dress-up”… telling jokes… wrestling on the lawn…. the list goes on and on…

Sieze the moment and play!  Laugh!  Have fun!  It really is the best medicine!!

25.  DO!

Apart from travel… getting involved with projects and initiatves that served a bigger purpose than just serving “me” – was, without a doubt, one of the BEST decisions of my life.  It changed me completely (in a good way).  It opened up my eyes.  It helped me to realise how very fortunate I am – and to be so very grateful with how much I have.  It’s hard to stay remain a complacent couch-whinger when you visit shacks in rural villages where people are dying in their beds of HIV/AIDS – and their little children are forced to fend for themselves.

It’s hard to bitch about your life then.

Suddenly, the importance of owning the latest iPhone doesn’t just feel a little bit fickle – it feels downright indulgent… and definitely not “important”.

In response to what I saw, I launched initiatives like Tapestry of Dreams and VENT! and WOODO! – not out of a sense of duty or obligation… but because it is rewarding and wonderful (for me too).

And I cannot begin to tell you about how many amazing, incredible, dedicated, giving, serving, generous, compassionate PEOPLE I have met… out “there”… far away from the malls and the ‘burbs… and the fickle discussions about “what-not-to-wear”.

One of the best ways to change your life… is to get up and “DO”…

I’ll leave you with these thoughts:

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