Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Home Authors Posts by Ruth O'Reilly-Smith

Ruth O'Reilly-Smith


Why we can’t enjoy the moment we’re in and the people we’re with.

As I tuck my daughter into bed and kiss her goodnight, she looks up at me with a sad face. “Mommy, the other children are still playing outside.” At age nine, she is suffering from an acute case of FoMO – Fear Of Missing Out. It’s “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”.

FoMO is not a new social phenomenon – it goes back to one of the Ten Commandments in the Bible

“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor” – Exodus 20:17.

Jealousy of, and a hankering after, other people’s belongings, talents and experiences has always been around but easy access to the daily lives of friends, family, acquaintances and celebrities via social media has only served to heighten our ‘fear of missing out’. FoMO creates a real sense of panic and a social angst characterized by “a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing”. It also perpetuates the fear of having made the wrong decision on how to spend our time as we begin to imagine how things could be different.

Don’t Waste Your Life

If you live in a constant state of regret, wishing you were somewhere else, with other people, doing something else, you’ll never enjoying the moment you’re in.

You really are missing out.

You’re missing out on making this moment count, with these people in your life, right now.

We do a great disservice to the people we’re with when we wish we were with others and we will never find joy in the moment if we constantly compare ourselves and our circumstances with others.

FoMO leaves us in a perpetual state of unhappiness

Not only does it cost us our sense of contentment, but FoMO also costs us in terms of our productivity.

Someone offers you an opportunity, and you feel like you’re going to miss out if you don’t take it.

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things. – Steve Jobs

FoMO makes us want to say yes to every opportunity we’re presented with and if we don’t, we worry we’ll fail.

6 Steps to Overcome FOMO
  1. Set strong, specific goals. Clarity is key. If your priorities are clear, you can play your game instead of everyone else’s. Ask yourself whether the opportunity with help you achieve your goal?
  2. Be clear about what you need to do to achieve those goals. Focus on the things you need to do in order to achieve your goals.
  3. Count the Cost. When you feel like saying yes ask, “What am I giving up to say yes to this, and is that worth it?”
  4. Delight in saying ‘no’. An opportunity with a yes attached is an obligation and too many obligations is an obstacle. Give yourself permission to turn something down today.
  5. Cultivate a mindset of abundance. FOMO thrives on scarcity. “An opportunity like this will probably never come along again,” you might rationalize, “so I have to say ‘yes’ now.” But, no you don’t. Another opportunity will come along. Choose wisely.
  6. Stay Grateful. Be determined to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Be thankful and enjoy the people you’re with, the things you do have and what you’re doing.

Develop the discipline of choosing to be fully in your moment, with the people you’re with right now.



Out of this world – an African space collaboration

Turning the old and unused into something new and exciting.

Undersea cables around the African coast have rendered old telecommunications dishes across much of the continent obsolete, until now that is. In an exciting move for African astronomy, and after more than a decade, the old dishes are being recycled. Engineers have converted one such dish near Accra, Ghana into the continent’s first radio telescope outside of South Africa. It’s the first of many such telescopes across Africa with long-term plans to further develop the skills of astronomers on the continent.

The Ghana telescope will hopefully be incorporated into a group of radio telescopes based in the Northern Hemisphere that together will act as one large instrument, although astronomers also want to use it in a separate African Network. Plans are therefore under way to convert telecommunications dishes in Zambia, Madagascar and Kenya by mid-2019 and four other African nations by mid-2022. The idea is that the more telescopes there are, the more detail the astronomers can see.

Explorations of rediscovery

News of the recycling of these old, defunct telecommunications dishes got me thinking of all the unused and discarded things in our lives. Or perhaps it’s a talent, or skill, that’s remained unused for years? Maybe it’s time for us to look at all those unused things and our rusty skills through new eyes. Instead of allowing those things to rot or gather dust and letting your talents and skills to go unused, what changes can you make that will breathe new life into them?

A few small changes and a new perspective is all that’s needed to transform something that’s become obsolete into something useful again. And when it comes to the things you used to enjoy doing, maybe it’s time to get knitting or stitching again, or how about painting or drawing? Maybe it’s time you re-string that old guitar or run your fingers over the piano keys and start teaching someone else to play? If you haven’t read a good book for years, make a trip to the library or a second-hand book store, stock up on some books and get reading. How about dusting off those old golf clubs, or boxing gloves, find that old soccer ball or put your trainers on and go for a run? How about using your skills by volunteering at a school or make use of your previous medical experience at the local clinic?

Enjoy rediscovering the joy of breathing new life into something old and unused today.

Ghosting – The Disappearing Act

I met her in the maternity ward. I was about to give birth to twins and she was in there with her number two. Maybe it was the environment? The packed room with pregnant women and the caring nurses, it was our little isolated world and we hit it off instantly. I felt blessed to have made a wonderful friend so quickly, especially given the fact that I felt completely out-of-my-depths as a first-time mom.

We swapped numbers and I looked forward to catching up with her once the dust had settled after the birth of our children.

I messaged her – no reply. I messaged again – no reply. I called – no answer. I called again and left a message – no response. I messaged – no reply. I left it for a few weeks and messaged again – no reply. Hmmm… maybe she didn’t want to get together after all?

I messaged again, just in case – no reply.

I left it a few months and messaged again – no reply.

I gave up.

Years later, I realise I’d been ‘ghosted’.

My ‘friend’ had done a disappearing act and I had no idea why. It took me ages to admit that she didn’t want to see me again. She didn’t even want to tell me that she didn’t want to see me again – not face to face, by sms or phone?! How could that be? We’d got on so well? Well, I thought we had. What did I do? Why didn’t she want to be my friend?

Once I finally realised that she just didn’t want to pick up where we left off after our emotional goodbye in the maternity ward, I was able to move on.

Sound familiar?

Maybe it’s happened with someone you dated for a few weeks or months? In an instant and without any explanation or warning, they disappear.

You’ve been ‘ghosted’.

Or maybe you’ve done the ghosting?

Time To Move On
  1. So you’ve been ghosted.

If you’ve tried to make contact over a few days or weeks, with no response, recognise that you’ve been ghosted.

  1. Own it.

Don’t hang on to false hope. Accept that it’s over. Your recovery begins when you accept that it’s happened.

  1. Don’t track them down.

Don’t stalk them or position yourself in places you’re likely to ‘accidentally’ bump into them. You’ll heal up quicker if you choose to move on.

  1. Learn the lesson.

People who ‘ghost’ want to avoid conflict or confrontation, they hope the ‘problem’ will go away if they avoid the person. Have the courage to learn from this experience. Ask yourself some tough questions. Maybe there was something you did, or said, that alienated your friend or partner? Were there certain behaviours or personality traits that caused conflict? Look for how you can grow through this.

  1. Go easy on yourself.

Technology makes meeting up with people easier than ever, giving the false impression that there are ‘plenty of fish in the sea’. Many people are sadly never content with what they have and with easy access to so many different options, are always looking for someone or something else to provide the next ‘high’. The decision to ‘fade’ or ‘ghost’ you, may not be solely your fault – it’s partly our culture.

  1. You’re awesome – now move on.

Rather than rebounding to the next date or the next best friend, rather pause for a bit. You are awesome. Rediscover who you are and what you love and just enjoy being you. Learn to be single and happy. Focus on and enjoy the people who are in your life right now and regain your self-confidence. Then, look up and see if there’s someone new around you – someone amazing, like you. Someone who wants to be with you – for the long-haul.

Femi Kuti – Victory After Disappointment

Femi Kuti is finally victorious. After initially just missing out on a world record, the Nigerian musician can now claim the title of the person who has played a single note on a saxophone for the longest time: 51 minutes, 35 seconds.

Kuti thought he’d broken the record last week after blowing the note for 46 minutes 38 seconds but someone pointed out that American Vann Burchfield has gone for over 47 minutes.

On Sunday the 14th of May, Femi Kuti had another go and this time, he made sure. The saxophonist uses a circular breathing method to sustain the note and broke the record. Unfortunately, Guinness World Records has discontinued the category where circular breathing is used and will therefore not certify Femi’s achievement.

Dealing With Disappointment

I guess victory for Femi Kuti is bittersweet then but to his fans, he’ll always be a hero.

The initial disappointment of not breaking the world record drove Kuti to try again only days later and this time he succeeded. The second disappointment is something he can’t do anything about – not having his name and his incredible achievement added to next year’s Guinness World Record book.

But how do you move on from disappointment?

Femi Kuti knows he broke the world record, his friends and family know and now the world knows as media outlets buzz with the news, but is that enough? Will Kuti be able to move on from the disappointment of not being formally recognised by the Guinness World Records for his achievement?

Moving On

If we don’t learn to move on after a disappointment, we can get stuck and the longer we wallow in self-pity, the harder it is to break free. Learning from a disappointment will, on the other hand, enable us to grow.

Author and speaker Joyce Meyer says of disappointment:

What do you do when disappointment comes? When it weighs on you like a rock, you can either let it press you down until you become discouraged, even devastated, or you can use it as a stepping-stone to better things. Learn to adapt and adjust. You can do it! Face disappointment at its onset and be quick to make any adjustments required to remedy the situation. God has better things for you, and He will help you. He says in Hebrews 13:5, “…I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support…(I will) not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let (you) down….”

Instead of concentrating on your problems and getting discouraged, focus on God and meditate on His promises for you. You may have fallen down, but you don’t have to stay down. God is ready, willing and able to pick you up.

Whatever your disappointment, you can learn from it. Take the time to reflect on what’s actually happened, what’s really important, whether you can do anything to change the circumstances and then take action and move on.

The Mandela Effect

Ever heard of ‘confabulation’? It sounds like a made-up word but it’s the clinical definition used by psychologists to describe the unconscious process of creating a story the narrator believes is true even if it’s proven to be false. ‘Confabulation’ is however not restricted to patients with brain damage or a psychiatric disorder. We all confabulate at times.
Human memory, although amazing in its ability, is also imperfect and can at times lead to the phenomenon of false memories – untrue recollections of past events that feel real even though they are proven false.  It’s not intentional, we’re just inventing facts to fill in the gaps in our fallible memory.

One such memory glitch is referred to as the “Mandela Effect” – a term used to describe a collective false memory. For example, lines from famous movies that everyone gets wrong (for example,  Humphrey Bogart’s saying “Play it again, Sam” in Casablanca), erroneous dates and numbers (apparently many people answer “52” when asked how many states there are in the U.S.), and historical misconceptions (are you among those who recall learning that the cotton gin inventor Eli Whitney was black?).

The “Mandela Effect” is a term used to describe a shared false memory. It originates from an online thread of a large number of people who falsely believe that the South African human rights activist and former president Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s, when in fact he died in 2013.

Why does this occur?

One theory is based on the principle of quantum mechanics and suggests that people who experience the Mandela Effect may have “slid” between parallel realities. After growing up in a universe where Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s, some people wake up to find themselves in an alternate universe where he died in 2013.  Or, apparent memory glitches are actually software glitches that cause inconsistencies in our perception of reality.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this kind of speculation, but it provides no practical explanation and it’s not necessary. We don’t have to conduct thought experiments about the nature of reality to explain why we misremember things or why we misremember some of the same things the same way.

One thing most psychologists agree on is that memory is fallible. They also agree that it’s constructive, not reproductive so, the brain builds memories spontaneously out of random pieces of information as opposed to playing them back like a recording so, memories aren’t pure. They can be distorted by any number of factors, including bias, association, imagination, and peer pressure.

David Dunning once said

“The trouble with ignorance is that it feels so much like expertise”.

If human memory is fallible, what true reality can we trust and ultimately build our lives on?
If it’s truth we seek then we can look to Jesus Christ who said:

“I am the way, the truth and the life…”  – John 14:6

He is also “the same yesterday and today and forever” – Hebrews 13:8
If you’re looking to build your life on a true and immoveable reality, build your life on Jesus Christ – the solid rock


The Bible

The Go-getter

Are you a go-getter?

Every family has one, just as every friendship circle and organisation has one or two, or a few – if you’re lucky.

These are the people who get things done. Not only are they intrinsically motivated, but they also mobilise others. They’re the ones who get us up and out the house when we’d rather lie in bed for another hour, veg-out on the sofa in front of the telly or coast along happily doing the same old thing we’ve done every day since we started at the company we’ve been at for the last ten years. The go-getter is the one who will force us out of a rut – whether we like it or not.

As most successful individuals tend to be go-getters, it pays to either be one or at least have a few of these characters strategically placed around your life. Although all of us would ideally like to be intrinsically motivated, there are times when we may need someone to spur us on, stretch and challenge us and enable us to reach new heights, whatever our role.

When my daughter dragged me up on stage at our new church after the pastor asked for volunteers, I realised that she’s a little go-getter. When my son pleaded with me to join him on his bike ride and refused to take “no” for an answer, I realised that he too is a go-getter, and so is my husband. I guess I’m also a bit of a go-getter, but I’m a convenient go-getter.

Maybe we all are. Perhaps we only become enthusiastic champions of a cause when it’s something we believe in or when it fits our personality?

Be A Go-getter

• Have a dream or a vision – something to aim for. This will give you a reason to get up and get going every morning.

• Be intentional about showing up every day, no matter what, with your game-face on.

• Be confident but not arrogant. Believe that you add value to any environment.

• Be willing to take risks.

• Recognise and celebrate your victories and accomplishments – no matter how small

• Do what you love and you’ll love what you do – that’s when enthusiasm flows naturally.

• Recognise and utilise your support systems and be brave enough to ask for help or advice.

• Work on your communication skills. Learn to positively navigate relationships and you’ll go far.

• Be courageous. Bravely face your fears and confidently do what you were created to do.

• Have stickability – don’t quit at the first sign of resistance.

• Learn from your mistakes and then move on.

Some personality types are just more ‘go-getter’ than others but for those who generally struggle to gain momentum or traction, or for those times when we find ourselves in a rut, it’s important to have the go-getters close to hand.
If you think you’re a go-getter, you are and if you think you’re not, you’re also right. Your world needs you to be your best today. Start by thinking of yourself as a go-getter and focus on your strengths. Be awesome at what you do.

A Deadly-Sweet Addiction

We can probably all attest to the addictive nature of sugar and steering clear of the sweet temptation is easier said than done, especially if you’re still wading through cupboards and draws full of Easter eggs.

In recent years though, sugar has become a global taboo with scientific and medical research confirming its harmful effects.

Unlike the negativity surrounding the consumption of fat, dairy, coffee and even red wine, all of which are now making a resurgence as they are hailed for their health benefits in moderation, sugar’s bad rep is getting worse.

Although deliciously addictive, most people will admit that sugar is not good for the body and mind. It’s difficult to cut down on though, mainly because so much of it is hidden in our food. A cursory look at the ingredients reveals that sugar is added to pretty much everything we eat.

Are you addicted to sugar?

  1. Do you struggle to walk past a sugary treat without taking ‘just one’?
  2. Do you have set routines around sugar consumption? Always having a pudding for instance, or needing a piece of chocolate to relax in front of the television or with a book?
  3. Are there times when you feel the need for sugar just to stay awake?
  4. If you are forced to go without sugar for 24 hours, do you develop headaches and mood swings?

If you answered ‘yes’ to one of the above questions, you’re probably addicted to sugar.

The Dangers Of Sugar:

As the seasons change, maintaining a strong immune system should be a top priority, but one of the greatest immune suppressants is sugar. Cutting down on your intake is therefore one sure way you can stay healthy.

Other harmful effects of sugar:

  • Feeds candida
  • Promotes wrinkling and premature aging of skin
  • Makes your blood acidic
  • Can aggravate arthritis and osteoporosis
  • Rots teeth
  • Raises blood sugar levels
  • Contributes to obesity and binge eating
  • Is addictive
  • Provides ’empty calories’ with no nutritional value
  • Contributes to diabetes
  • Robs your body of minerals
  • Robs you of energy
  • Contributes to heart problems
  • Can cause cancer
  • Contributes to ulcers
  • Can cause gallstones
  • Contributes to fatigue
  • Raises the level of serotonin in your brain
  • Weakens eyesight
  • Sugar can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels).
  • Contributes towards eczema

With all that in mind as delicious as it is, sugar is something we should make every effort to steer clear of.

How To Steer Clear Of Sugar:

David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison books focus on how he stopped eating sugar. He lost 38 kg’s in a year without dieting. He explains: “You are breaking an addiction, so you need to stop consuming all sources of the addictive substance. They are all hard to give up because they are addictive – but they are all easy to give up once you understand what you are doing and why.”

He adds: “Your palate adjusts significantly and quickly when you delete sugar. You can suddenly experience a whole range of flavours that either you didn’t know existed before or were muted by the presence of sugar.”

Gillespie began reading John Yudkin’s book Pure, White and Deadly, published in 1972, which also showed that consumption of sugar and refined sweeteners is closely associated with long-term disease. He discovered that fructose (in particular) is connected with fatty liver disease, appetite stimulation, gout, diabetes, memory loss and, of course, obesity. He was shocked to learn “how many of our organs sugar systematically destroys without symptoms until it is too late. First the liver, then the pancreas, then the kidneys, and ultimately the heart.”

The more Gillespie learnt, the more he was determined to do something about his own eating habits. “I wasn’t feeling deprived. I ate what I wanted and as long as it didn’t contain sugar, the weight kept coming off. I had stumbled upon a way of fixing what had obviously been a broken appetite control system up to that point in my life.”

Although his children didn’t like having to cut sugar out initially, they got used to it and their palates adjusted. Now they don’t get cavities, they rarely getting colds and they feel more energetic, with none of the highs and lows that come with sugar eating.

The mood roller-coaster is one of the reasons Gwyneth Paltrow gives for quitting sugar: “Sugar gives you an initial high, then you crash, then you crave more, so you consume more sugar. It’s this series of highs and lows that provoke unnecessary stress on your adrenals. You get anxious, moody (sugar is a mood-altering drug) and eventually you feel exhausted.”

Although I think we should all go sugar free, dietician Sylvia Turner of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) says; “Sugar is not bad for you as part of a balanced diet. It has an important role to play in providing flavour and texture to foods. Just remember, sugar contains calories but few nutrients, so eating too much added sugar and sugary food and drinks instead of other healthy foods can make your diet less nutritious.” She adds: “Some research suggests that sugary drinks make it harder for us to regulate the overall amount of calories eaten and a regular intake may be a factor contributing to obesity in children.”

People around the world have taken the ‘No Sugar’ stance seriously and quit, with great health benefits. Are you willing to give it a go?

Choosing A Way Out Of Indecision

The middle lane on a highway was designed to make it safer for a driver to pass a slower vehicle, but some drivers insist on stubbornly hogging it. Middle-lane hoggers caused such an outcry in Britain a few years ago, that the government introduced a penalty for the offence – a £100 fine and points on your licence.

Middle-lane hoggers are a little like those who perpetually live in indecision. Agonising over a choice and refusing to commit, they remain stagnant and unhappy because they lack the courage to pick a lane.

Someone once said

“Decisions have consequences. Indecision more so”.

Although keeping your options open may seem like a good idea, it can lead to stagnation, fear, anxiety and a lack of accomplishment. Rather than feel remorse for making a bad decision, most people are overcome by regret for their lack of action. A perceived wrong decision often brings about better results than no decision at all.

Rather than frustrating everyone on the road with your slow driving in the middle lane, or wallowing in indecision, here’s how you can move towards making a choice:

  • Make decisions based around your values. Making firm decisions will be easier when you’re clear about what matters to you and what you believe.
  • Grow your self-confidence. Know where and how you add value and trust your intuition.
  • There’s no such thing as perfect. You can only hazard a guess as to the consequences of the decision you make but one thing you can be sure of, there will be some good and some bad. Perfect outcomes simply don’t exist.
  • Make sure your decision is a reflection of you, based on the values that are important to you. Don’t make a decision based on what others will think of you.
  • Get the outside perspective of someone who knows you. Someone you trust and respect.
  • If you’re stuck in indecision because you fear the challenges, look rather to the opportunities your choice brings. If you can list a few good opportunities that will come from this change, then go for it.

If you have made a choice that’s impacted negatively on you and your loved ones:

  • Accept what’s happened, say sorry to those you’ve hurt and forgive yourself.
  • Find the positives.
  • Learn from your mistakes and move on.

On Closer Inspection

Not long after we moved into our new house, we all got our hiking boots on and set off to climb up the hill at the back of the property. It was one of the main reasons we bought the place – we are right next to a rolling green hill, with tree-lined paths, idyllic for us avid walkers. Not only did we want to climb the hill though, we were also eager to inspect what, from our kitchen window, looked like a tall black monument at the top. The walk was wonderful, but when we reached what we’d assumed was a historical monument, we discovered that it is in fact, a ventilation pipe for an old disused coal mine. The pipe allows the potentially harmful build-up of methane gas to escape the old mine dump.

Although I still love the serenity of our new surroundings, my view of the hill and the ‘monument’ has changed slightly. Both serve as a daily reminder of the snap judgements we so readily make, many of which are negative and based on false assumptions.

My husband was out running the other day and when he got back we started chatting about his route and whether he’d met any other runners or walkers along the way. Although he’d enjoyed the route, he said he did pass one grumpy old man who refused to respond to his chirpy “hello”. The words were barely out his mouth when he said, “on second thoughts, maybe he was deaf?” I said he’d probably had an argument with his wife and needed some fresh air, or he’d heard some bad news.

Whatever the reason for the man’s perceived ‘bad mood’, I was reminded again of the stories we all carry, many of which remain hidden in our hearts and occasionally spill out and impact our world through words and actions.

Rather than make snap judgements about people or circumstances, assuming the worst, let’s rather remember that things are not always as they seem.

Let’s assume the best and give people a chance.

Open Hands

I loved my job. I worked as news editor and reader with a weekend music show for a radio station in the UK, broadcasting back to Africa. Originally from South Africa, this was my first radio job in the UK, but within five years the Africa service relocated to South Africa and I was let go. I was heartbroken and fearful and struggled to remain positive, especially when everyone else in the office felt the same. Well, not everyone. One woman was different. In the midst of all the insecurity and turmoil of job losses, this woman was at peace. She remained confident in the belief that God, not man was her boss and if she lost her job, He would provide for her.

She wasn’t arrogant or proud, but rather than cling desperately to a job and monthly salary provided for by a boss in an office, she held the blessing of employment loosely in open hands. This was not some fatalistic whim though, she did what she needed to do in order to prepare herself for what was inevitably going to be a different season in her life, but then she surrendered her fears and anxieties to her maker and rested.

At the time, I thought losing my job was the worst possible thing that could happen, but in hindsight I see how helpful it was. I was forced to find a job back in teaching, which ultimately prepared me for the skills I would need to land an incredible job back in radio, this time with a national broadcaster in the UK.

Over the years I’ve come to realise the joy of living with open hands – the surrendered life. When I catch myself wanting desperately to cling to a person or position, I picture myself opening my hands and surrendering. Whether it’s friends, family or a source of income, holding onto these things with an iron grip keeps us wrapped up in fear and steals the joy of the miracle of learning to be content, no matter the circumstance.

The apostle Paul writes,

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” – Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT Bible)

Regardless of whether it’s your spouse, your children, your friends, job or hobbies, don’t hold so tightly onto everything that you risk losing everything. Rather relinquish control and live with open hands.

“If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever. If it doesn’t, then it was never meant to be”. – Unknown

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