This Year's Word with Courtney Symes

Imagine if a single word could change your life. This was a theory Courtney wanted to test a few years ago when, instead of setting New Year’s resolutions, she selected a Word of the Year to live her life by. Join Courtney as she shares her Word of the Year experiences with you in this podcast series.

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Episodes

4 days ago

How can we influence others to be kind?
This is the question I’ll be reflecting on in today.
In the last couple of episodes, I’ve highlighted the importance of kindness, as well as how to be kind to people who are unkind. The next step is encouraging others to be kind too.
As powerful as it is for us to take daily steps to establish our own kindness practice, the real change comes when we do this collectively, and create a Kindness Movement. Here's how we can do it together... 
Check out my courses: Magical Mornings and Joyful Journaling Journey, as well as my book, A Year of Love: Finding peace one day at a time. 
Grab your FREE Journaling Guide with 100+ prompts here. 
Read more on my blog, or connect with me on Facebook. 
And finally, get your Kindness Calendar here:-) 

Why some people are unkind

Friday Mar 17, 2023

Friday Mar 17, 2023

Why are some people unkind?
This is a question we can often find ourselves asking when, seemingly through no fault of our own, someone is unkind to us.
I thought this was an important question to consider this week as we journey through our month of kindness, because when we’re met with unkindness (which is more often than we’d like), it can leave us feeling discouraged, and wondering what’s the point of being kind to others. But there is a point, here's why...
Check out my courses: Magical Mornings and Joyful Journaling Journey, as well as my book, A Year of Love: Finding peace one day at a time. 
Grab your FREE Journaling Guide with 100+ prompts here. 
Read more on my blog, or connect with me on Facebook. 
And finally, get your Kindness Calendar here:-) 
 
 

Wednesday Mar 15, 2023

Look where you want to go - On-Piste, and in life!
Check out my courses: Magical Mornings and Joyful Journaling Journey, as well as my book, A Year of Love: Finding peace one day at a time. 
Grab your FREE Journaling Guide with 100+ prompts here. 

Wednesday Mar 08, 2023

Who are the women that have had a positive impact on your life?
In honour of International Women’s Day, I am excited to present this episode, which pays respect to the women who have made a difference in my life.
Check out my courses: Magical Mornings and Joyful Journaling Journey, as well as my book, A Year of Love: Finding peace one day at a time. 
Grab your FREE Journaling Guide with 100+ prompts here. 

Friday Mar 03, 2023

I believe there is one thing we can never have enough of in the world, and that is kindness.
What does kindness mean to you? When was the last time you were kind to someone, or someone was kind to you?
In this episode I'll discuss the concept of Kindness and why it's important. 
Join my FREE 31 Day Kindness Challenge and grab your Kindness Calendar here. 
Check out my courses: Magical Mornings and Joyful Journaling Journey, as well as my book, A Year of Love: Finding peace one day at a time. 
Grab your FREE Journaling Guide with 100+ prompts here. 

Wednesday Feb 22, 2023

I have such a deep love for reading - it is one of my all-time favourite activities. Last year, I read and listened to 55 books. I don’t for a second underestimate the power reading has on my growth on development. In this episode, I thought it would be helpful to present you with a list of my Top Ten books I’ve read over the last year, and create a Reading List for you for 2023.
There’s only one small problem…whittling my list down to ten was nearly impossible, so I present you with my top 12 books. If you read a book a month, that’s your next 12 months of reading sorted!
Check out my courses: Magical Mornings and Joyful Journaling Journey, as well as my book, A Year of Love: Finding peace one day at a time. 
Grab your FREE Journaling Guide with 100+ prompts here. 

Wednesday Feb 15, 2023

People and flowers have more in common than you'd think - here's why...

Why reading with kids matters

Wednesday Feb 08, 2023

Wednesday Feb 08, 2023

Encouraging your kids to read is one of the best things you can do as a parent. Here's why...
 
Check out my courses: Magical Mornings and Joyful Journaling Journey, as well as my book, A Year of Love: Finding peace one day at a time. 
Grab your FREE Journaling Guide with 100+ prompts here. 
Today’s episode is the fifth and final in my mini-series on Family, where I’ll be chatting about ways to nurture and show love within our family relationships.
 
As I record this, my children have been back at school for just over a week. In this episode, I wanted to chat about reading with kids, which I thought was timely, given we are at the start of the school year.
 
There is a beautiful quote from Einstein that goes:
"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."
I just love this quote, because basically it is saying, you can never read enough stories, which I would whole-heartedly agree with.
I absolutely love books, and I believe this love has been instilled in me from my parents. My mum was a school teacher and was very passionate about helping kids to learn how to read, and dad has always been well-read, driven by a thirst for knowledge and understanding of how the world works. Dad often recalls his childhood memories of Christmas when he and his siblings would receive books as presents, and relish the quiet time after Christmas lunch when he could relax and read them.
For me, I love listening to my parents read to me when I was little, as well as audiobook stories on cassette when I was older – firm favourites included Mr Men by Roger Hargreaves and Paddington by Michael Bond.
My world expanded when I learnt to read on my own. There is something delightfully independent about going to the library and selecting books you will read by yourself. I also relished reading before bed – this became a comforting activity I looked forward to every evening. My joy of reading was something I always vowed I’d share with my children, so they could experience the same kind of magic I had experienced as a child.
Fast-forward thirty years, and both my children are well on their way on their own reading journeys, but it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. My daughter has needed some extra help developing her reading skills, and doesn’t love reading as much as I did when I was her age.
English is a bugger of a language to learn. Just when you think you’ve covered off all the rules, you’ll encounter an exception. “Just sound it out” doesn’t cut it for many words (now referred to as ‘camera words’, which can’t be decoded and simply have to be memorised).
The curriculum of learning how to read has changed considerably since I was a kid. The teachers do a marvellous job, but mastering the English language can be a life-long pursuit. The most effective way I’ve found to engage my children in reading is by finding books that appeal to their personalities and capture their imaginations. Like other parents, I’ve quickly recognised some books and stories are timeless.
Here are some of the books my children have loved, and we still keep on our bookshelf (even if they have outgrown them):
When they were small, my children would gravitate to books like The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle or Where’s Spot by Eric Hill. As they’ve grown, they have developed a fascination with classic tales by authors such as Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, and J.K. Rowling. We’ve all enjoyed Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery and C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.
Even though the language in original versions of books such as The Secret Garden, Peter Pan and Little Women is often hard to get your tongue around, my kids love the concepts and challenges introduced in these stories.
All of these tales present common life lessons: don’t trust strangers (Hansel and Gretel), war (Little Women), sacrifice and working together (The Chronicles of Narnia), persistence and resilience (The Secret Garden), the joy of magic and imagination (Peter Pan, The Wishing Chair, The Enchanted Wood, The Magic Faraway Tree, et al.) good vs evil (Harry Potter and Roald Dahl’s Matilda series). In fact, if you think of any children’s story, there is a message, a journey or transformation the characters undergo throughout the book. Books introduce us to the world, allowing us to observe it through different characters’ eyes and their experiences. Many will remain in our hearts for life – our relationship with them so deep it is as if we are walking the same path they have walked before us. 
In his book, Solitude, author Michael Harris observes how reading can help trigger compassion and empathy as he explains, “The parts of the brain that are involved with reading fiction in particular, share large areas with the parts of the brain that help us understand other people in daily life. When we read, our brains behave as though we are experiencing what the hero experiences. The solitary reader rehearses the lives of others, and I think that must be the definition of empathy – to rehearse the lives of others.”
Reading abilities aside, immerse your children in these stories, whatever way you can, so they can benefit from the messages in these tales too.
When I went to the library last week to return some books with my daughter, she asked if she could get a library card. I thought this was a great idea - at ten-years-old she is fiercely independent, and I thought that if having her own library card would encourage her to read more books, that could only be a good thing!
Sure enough, once we signed up, she borrowed a book to bring home and read. The library card was free, and I explained to her that like using my card, you need to look after the books you borrow and return them on time, otherwise you will be charged. Hopefully this will be a good lesson in responsibility as well!
Now his sister has a library card, of course my son is keen to get his own card too, and has requested a library date with me one afternoon after school. My son naturally gravitated to reading, and is a voracious reader, which has also been driven by his friends who are enthusiastic readers too.
Like me, he also appreciates the quiet calmness of the library, and enjoys hanging out there and reading for a bit after choosing a book. I figure there are worse ways we could spend an afternoon, and now that we have reduced some of our afternoon commitments, we have the space and time to do this.
Here are some actions you can take to enjoy reading with your children or grandchildren:
Make time for reading in your day. The best teacher is a good example, so if your children see you enjoy reading, hopefully, they will be inspired to read as well.  
Make time for reading in their day. Reading doesn’t have to be done before bed. It can be relaxing, but it can also be the last thing you (and they) feel like doing at the end of a long day. I found this particularly true when my eldest was learning to read. She couldn’t deal with the frustration of deciphering words when she just wanted to go to sleep. Depending on your schedule, reading could be done in the morning before school, in the afternoon after school, especially after they’ve had afternoon tea and a moment to unwind. You could also read on the weekend when you have more time and patience. My kids currently have 15 minutes of quiet reading time when they get home from school, before they turn on the TV or jump on a device.
Keep it fun. Reading should never be a chore, so bring joy to reading by finding topics you and your children are interested in. Their interests will change over time, so regular visits to the library will help to spark their enthusiasm.
Shorter is better. A little bit of reading regularly is better than a lot of reading less frequently. Kids have short attention spans, so reading one page and keeping them engaged is better than being distracted for a whole chapter.  
Read as a family. Get older children to read to little ones. Little ones love the attention of their older siblings, and this is a great way for older children to practice their reading. This strategy was really helpful for us when we were home-schooling during lockdown, and my kids still love reading to each other.
Explore different mediums. There are a plethora of audiobooks available today through Audible or free library resources such as Bolinda’s Borrow Box. If I’m reading to each child separately, I will often set one up with an audiobook while I read to the other. Many audiobooks are read by the author or actors (my favourite children’s stories are read by Kate Winslet), who are dynamic and engaging. There are also several websites with authors and actors reading to kids, such as Storyline Online and Play School Story Time. Watching these stories is often an excellent way for kids to have some quiet time after lunch or at the end of a busy day.  
I’ll leave you with this wonderful quote about books and the benefit of reading from Michael Harris: “At full power, a good book trains us to forgo our immediate environment. It trains us to sink into an imaginary space where its private life can thrive at the exclusion of all else. And importantly, as we separate ourselves from the world around us, we connect to something larger and far away, something foreign.”

Cut the commitments

Tuesday Jan 31, 2023

Tuesday Jan 31, 2023

Do you need to cut down on your commitments this year?
Check out my courses: Magical Mornings and Joyful Journaling Journey, as well as my book, A Year of Love: Finding peace one day at a time. 
Grab your FREE Journaling Guide with 100+ prompts here. 
 
Today’s episode is the fourth in my mini-series on Family, where I’ll be chatting about ways to nurture and show love within our family relationships.
Today is the first day of school for my children, and many other children in Australia. As we all get back into our school and work routines for the rest of the year, I thought this was a timely occasion to talk about reassessing commitments.
As I mentioned in my last episode, What I’m looking forward to in 2023, our family hit the ground running at the start of 2022 when all the kid’s extracurricular activities and In Real Life events resumed. Because so much time had been missed over lockdown, it felt like we were playing catch-up all year, and didn’t stop until we screamed to a holt in December for the Christmas holidays.
One of my biggest learnings from last year was that I completely over-committed and overscheduled our little family, which is something I want to avoid this year so we reach the end of this year with some fuel still left in the tank.
As a parent, you want to give your children the best opportunities in life, which in addition to academic education also include extra-curricular activities, such as sport, music, drama, arts and craft. The challenge is where to draw the line on activities. Obviously most of these activities cost money, although we’ve found there’s a big difference in the cost of team sports versus one-on-one activities such as individual music lessons, which obviously restricts how many activities you can do. However, the challenge we had this year is that the kids signed up to a couple of activities (Guides and Scouts) which require an annual commitment, so when you layer a couple of other activities on top of that, life suddenly becomes very hectic!
And it’s not just the kids that get caught up with commitments either – parents are prone to over-commitment too. I talk more about the drain of over-commitment in my book, A Year of Love: Finding peace one day at a time. Here’s an extract from the book that I’d love to share with you now:
“As soon as children start school, and sometimes even earlier if they attend Playgroups and daycare, the ‘obligations’ start to drift down onto unsuspecting, enthusiastic parents’ shoulders. Fundraising events, volunteering for the school fête, the canteen, classroom reading, chaperoning school trips, coaching, etc. You name it – you’ll be asked to do it.  
It’s a slippery slope that becomes all too easy to slide down, thanks to the dreaded ‘parental guilt’ that mothers are particularly vulnerable to. Don’t get me wrong – volunteering is an essential service in our community, without which many organisations and initiatives would not exist. However, the more activities children are involved in, the more parents are encouraged to get involved or help out.
In The Brendon Show podcast, Brendon Burchard recalls talking to a friend’s wife at a social gathering. This lady was involved in a lot of community organisations and felt overwhelmed and stressed all the time. She explained to Burchard, “I don’t have time to focus on myself”, to which Burchard responded, “You don’t have time to focus on yourself because you just haven’t chosen to focus on yourself. You haven’t given yourself permission. You don’t have to be on any of these things.” She was exhausted all the time, and her health was suffering as a result. “If you actually cared about your children, you’d stop all of those,” said Burchard. The woman looked at Burchard in shock, and he continued, “Because your children don’t want to see you wiped out all of the time. You’re going to be more compassionate, more fun, more playful with your kids if you’re not wiped out all the time. Get rid of those things, and focus on the kids.”
Burchard fervently believes these things aren’t essential. “What’s essential in your child’s life is you present, energised, positive, focused, imparting good life lessons – all the other stuff is the architecture of society making you feel obligated. You have to question those things.”
The trick for parents is determining where we can add the most value, and this doesn’t have to be volunteering or leading every committee. If you have the time and want to be involved, select the activity you believe you could contribute to the most – through your existing skills or simply passion and interest. For example, I love craft and sewing and feel passionate about helping kids learn these skills. I also recognise many parents don’t have the time or skills to do these activities with their kids at home. I have happily volunteered to lead craft activities with my daughter’s Girl Guide unit before. The kids are thrilled with being able to make something themselves. I love seeing them learning new skills like using a hot glue gun while developing existing skills, such as using scissors to cut out intricate shapes carefully. Win-win!
First, establish if you have any time to commit to additional activities. Then decide how much time and how frequently. Rather than a regular weekly or monthly commitment, it could be volunteering in the school canteen once a term, umpiring a soccer match every three months, or going on an annual Guide camp for a weekend. Contributing something is better than nothing, and not at the cost of our energy and sanity. Our volunteering efforts for our kids should benefit them – not hinder them because we are exhausted from spreading ourselves too thin.”
For sure, there’s a fine line between giving our kids as many opportunities as we can, and supporting our community organisations by volunteering our time and skills without burning out.
The key is monitoring the energy levels of yourself and your family. As soon as the levels start to fade, ruthlessly review what you need to stop doing and cut the commitment or commitments!
For our family, I’ve learnt that the sweet spot is two activities per child, MAX! However this will vary for every family and child. Because my work hours are flexible, I’m available to ferry kids to and from activities after school, which I prefer so our weekends are free to relax and spend time together as a family. However, I understand this routine would be challenging for families with less flexible work hours.
This term we have reduced the kid’s extra-curricular activities as much as possible because it is the first school term. I know the emotional load on the kids will be high as they adjust to their new year level, teacher, and classmates. I’m aiming to keep afternoons after school as relaxing as possible by building in some down-time. I like them to have at least 15 minutes quiet reading or relax time before they flick on the TV or jump on a device to decompress for the day. This also gives me a few peaceful minutes to make them afternoon tea!
This week I encourage you to take some time out to review your calendar for the next quarter or term ahead and honestly asses if you have overcommitted yourself or your family in any areas. Consider what you need to stop doing (or at least postpone) until next term or quarter to give yourself some time and space to focus on the activities you enjoy the most.  
If you’ve enjoyed this episode, I’d be so grateful if you could leave a rating and review. Each review helps others find this podcast, and it absolutely makes my day reading them. I’ll share a beautiful one with you now:
“Wise, humble and humorous. Courtney’s voice has intelligence and wisdom. She is widely read and conveys her thought-provoking wisdom with humanity and humour. I love her.”
Thank you so very much for these kind words – this review made my month! It also inspires me to create the best content I can to share with you!
I’d be delighted to assist you further on your journey of personal development and growth. If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out my book, A Year of Love: Finding peace one day at a time, or if you’re looking for a little more morning motivation, take a look at my FREE course, Magical Mornings.
If you’d like to learn more about journaling, my course, Joyful Journaling Journey could be just what you need.
In the meantime, if you want some inspiring journaling prompts to kick-start your journaling practice, you can grab my free Journaling Guide with 100 prompts. This Guide also includes some super helpful info on the benefits of journaling, along with tips on how to establish a consistent journaling practice. Links for all of these helpful tools and resources can be found in the show notes.  
I’ll leave you with today’s mantra: “I edit my life ruthlessly and frequently to make space for the activities and people that fill my cup”.

Change Challenge 2023: Day 7

Monday Jan 30, 2023

Monday Jan 30, 2023

Welcome to Day 7! Here are your Change Chart Worksheets.
Check out my courses: Magical Mornings and Joyful Journaling Journey, as well as my book, A Year of Love: Finding peace one day at a time. 

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