Making a difference

19 08 2012

(or one quick way to make a difference in someone else’s life today)

Micro loans are a great way – and a very low-risk way – to make difference in the lives of individuals, families and communities in third world countries around the world. The organisation I use is called

Starting in amounts of $25 (with a small service fee) you can select individuals and groups to loan amounts to. Each potential loanee describes their project – which might be about farming, a small business, retail, education, and might be a capital investment such as a sewing machine, or supplies such as fabric, seed or goods for a shop. The total amount is usually a couple of thousand dollars, but you can loan just $25, so a large number of people are involved in each loan. Terms are usually for a few months, and so far I seem to have a 100% repayment rate.

Each loan project comes with a photograph of the people involved,a mini-biography including the country they are from, and an outline of the project. While you might not make money out of this, on the whole I find it as satisfying as investing on the stock market. At least i know this money helps someone to become self-sufficient. And I admire the level of ingenuity and entrpreneurism require to survive in some of these countries. And every so often you get an email to tell you a loan is partially or completely repaid.

So there you are – an easy and relatively cheap way to really make a difference. If this has piqued your interest, click here to find out more.

Thirteen quick things to change your life today

19 08 2012

If our lives are the sum of things we do, then changing what we do can change our lives, one moment at a time. Here are thirteen things that can be easily achieved.

1. Exercise. If you are currently doing nothing, then ten minutes exercise will make a difference. If you are already exercising, make it an extra ten minutes.

2. Wear sunblock. Australians have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, so as a red-head growing up in Australia, I know what I am talking about! Sun block is not only the one thing most guaranteed to keep you looking young, it may also save your life.

3. Eat some vegetables. Preferably green and leafy ones. A variety of fresh vegetables will keep you healthier and help with weight control.

4. Do the hard thing first. There is probably something you have been putting off, some emotionally challenging thing. Do it. Delaying doesn’t make it any better (in fact it usually makes it worse), and having it dragging around your neck doesn’t help your enjoyment of life now.

5. Act As If. A psychological principle whereby you can trick your brain into believing you are what you want to be. Smile, and your brain will think you are happy, and studies say you will start to feel happier. Michelangelo decided he was the world’s best artist years before he achieved it, but having this image meant he accepted the big projects (Sistine Chapel) that made his dream a reality.

6. Get organised. But don’t be overwhelmed. If your house is a mess, try scheduling fifteen minutes a day to do one room each day. Fifteen minutes is achievable and not overwhelming.

7. Stand up! Studies show that the more you sit down during the day, the earlier you die. It is now possible to get a desk to work at standing up.

8. Make time for a friend. Our lives can become very isolated a we get busier. Make time to enjoy others.

9. Have some downtime. Meditation is ideal, but even if you don’t know how to, have some quiet thinking time in a peaceful place. It doesn’t matter if you all asleep.

10. Get enough sleep. While we don’t really know he purpose of sleep, we o know it is necessary. Regular, sufficient sleep rejuvenated the body and mind, helps us think straight, manage our emotions, and have enough physical energy to exercise, dal with cravings and look after ourselves.

11. Give up one bad habit now. One less cigarette, one less biscuit, one less alcoholic drink – one less s a good thing. Then build on it.

12. Drink water. Water helps flush toxins from the body, helps control hunger, helps develop healthy skin and organs, and can help resolve headaches (some headaches are related to dehydration).

13. Live your life one moment at a time. (thanks to Maggie for this one). If losing weight, getting fit, finishing your study, tidying your house etc is too much, don’t think of he big goal. Just make he best decision for now. Faced with a range of lunch options, pick the healthy one now. How will you spend the next ten minutes?

Olympic fever

4 08 2012

named-dropping – my friend and former boss, Chris McRae, and her son James McRae, with his bronze medal for the men’s quad rowing.

I don’t watch sport. I am known for this. I fall asleep if the football is on. I read the newspaper from the front and stop reading after the business section. I am unable to name any players of any team (unless they have made the front page for some scandal – and even then I may not know what sport they play).

Turns out however, there is an exception.

The Olympics. Every four years, for two weeks at a time, I will watch pretty much anything Olympics-related.

Diving? I love it. Swimming? It’s the national sport. Pole vault? Several hours of focussed viewing. Rowing? I name-drop the son of a work colleague from a decade earlier who is now in the team. Hockey? This becomes a family obsession. Soccer? Discussed at length around the water-cooler at work. Cycling? I might even drag out my bike for a ride. And how did I ever live without gymnastics and equestrian broadcasts?

So what is it about the Olympics that makes it such compelling viewing (despite the abysmal local television coverage)?

I think it is a combination of things….

1. It is a short-term committment. My attention span can last two weeks, but not much longer.

2. Pardon the pun, but I am starting on an even playing field. My knowledge of these sports is approximately the same as everyone else’s so I can hold my own in conversations. Unlike football, tennis or cricket where almost everyone else in the world knows more than me.

3. The variety of sport is sufficient to stave off boredom. Pole vault or sprint might not hold my attention for long, but a couple of hours….fascinating!

4. It feels like I am participating with the rest of the world. It is interesting to see people from all over the world competing, their team uniforms, the spectators, the flags and banners. It is a world event, and in a very small way, I am part of it sitting in the comfort of my living room, watching the flickering light of the TV. And part of team Australia. Without the hassle of doing any actual exercise.

So for a couple of weeks I become a sports fanatic, completely out of character.

But don’t be fooled. In a weeks time, I will be back to my normal level of disinterest.