The best present you could give yourself in 2013

As 2012 draws to a close it’s important to not only reflect on what you are grateful for over the past year, but also your goals and actions for the year ahead. There is a massive shift in consciousness that is about to occur and it’s important to put pen to paper, and start the year off on the right foot.

Don’t leave it till 11.45pm on December 31st, after too many Vodkas, to consider what 2013 will bring. Set aside some time to really put some detail and thought to where you are going and what you want out of the New Year. It’s also great to do this exercise with your partner or a friend.

I recently watched a great film, Happy, which helped me consider when, and why, I am happy. The film reveals many interesting facts. Experts can now actually gauge how happy a person is, much like they can with depression. I was amazed to learn that 50% of happiness can be attributed to genetics, 10% to your financial and material wealth, while the remaining 40% is up to you, your state of mind and attitude.

So many of us think that wealth and ‘stuff’ will bring the joy we yearn for but it’s far from the truth. The film reveals that people living in poor countries are actually happier than the average American simply because they appreciate and value what they have. They head out each day celebrating what they do have versus what they don’t.

The film was a wake up call for me and I’m confident you will get more than a few ‘aha’ moments yourself if you watch it. It’s also an awesome gift to give someone. If you do get a chance to watch it please let me know what you thought of it on the The Houston Effect’s Facebook page. Enjoy!


Don’t let the breakdowns stop you from achieving your breakthroughs.

As much as I try to keep a positive outlook on my day-to-day life, sometimes things happen during projects that cause me to throw my hands up in the air and contemplate tossing in the bloody towel.

Occasionally life throws you curve balls. At these times, it’s easy, especially if you work freelance like myself, to let things get to you. All of a sudden, you find yourself in a frustrated state. I have hit so many bumps on the road during my life’s journey it’s amazing my wheels are still on at all. What I do know, however, is that if you are out there, trying to live your dream, you are part of a courageous minority. And for that you should congratulate yourself. A lot of people don’t take the risk to get something more out of their lives.

Whatever breakdown you are having it’s important to keep this in the back of your mind: you may be closer to a breakthrough than you think. This breakdown can be in any area of your life, whether you are trying to find a new apartment or a new relationship. The secret is to keep focusing on the result you want to achieve. Don’t let set backs, or knock backs, keep you from trying a different approach. Remember, being committed to a result is very different to being attached to one. In that commitment you have to let go of a certain amount of control so you don’t drive yourself completely mad. This is something I have worked at for years and I’m so much better at it now.

I find when I get to that breakdown point I need to connect to a thought that feels better than the one I am thinking about now. I look at what I have achieved versus what I haven’t. Letting go of your frustration allows you get back on track emotionally. It’s amazing how many times I have done that and, very soon after, I get some sort of breakthrough; then I am back on track. Breakdowns are ok, as long as you stay connected to the result and work towards the breakthroughs.


Keep an eye out for all kinds of people living all kinds of dreams.

Sometimes fate allows you to stumble upon magic moments that reconnect you with your dreams and remind you to enjoy the journey. A few weeks ago, I walked out of a restaurant one night and saw a guy playing a piano on the side of the footpath.

I didn’t speak to him, I just listened to him play with such passion and energy, as if he was playing to a large crowd. There were only three of us watching him and, after a while, we dropped a donation in his bucket and walked away. I was so moved by this guy that I went back to take a photo. As I took out my camera he looked up with a shining smile. I could see by the look on his face he was truly living his dream.

I love what was written on the front of his piano:


People like this are a gift to us and remind us all to get out there and truly live our lives.  He was doing just that and I hope you enjoy his message as much as I did.


Support brands that support you

One of my favorite places to grab a shake before I go to the movies is Shake Shack. Besides making great food they have a business philosophy that supports not only the local community but also the environment. Last night, whilst waiting for my chocolate peanut butter shake, I started reading a sign next to the counter that detailed Shake Shack’s approach. This got me thinking about the bigger picture. The fact is that we, the people, are the ones who keep businesses alive and thriving. If more of us took the time to look at which businesses are actually supporting the wellbeing of the community then it would ultimately change the community we live in.

I love documentaries and have been shocked by films such as ‘The Corporation’ and ‘Wal-Mart: The high cost of low price’. It disturbs me when I see corporations taking advantage of the community and destroying small business and peoples lives.

I’ve mentioned this before but I think everyone should watch more documentary films as they offer incredible insight into some of society’s greatest problems.

Take time to do your homework and make sure you buy, and support, local business. It is an important part of ensuring your community is thriving in an ethical way. As much as I try and avoid being too affected by all the negative news out there in the marketplace I try to do my part.

I was really impressed by what I read at Shake Shack and I am grateful that I live in a time when businesses like this are thriving.


Set the mood one track at a time.

I love easy entertaining. Besides setting the mood in your home with the correct lighting and scents, I find it really helpful to have a number of playlists on my iPod which are ready to go on any occasion.

I tend to create my playlists when I’m on vacation, or during a long weekend, when I have the time to sit down and listen to new music. What I look for in a playlist is a consistent mood and a sound that will be a complimentary background to whatever it is that I am doing. Ok, so you may be wondering, “What do I need beyond a ‘party’ mix?” So here’s a list of some of my playlist titles, and a description of what they are, which I hope will inspire you to make your own:

Atmosphere: chillout, ambient music for a slow morning start
Morning Magic: a progression from slow songs to R&B
Funky Start: a consistent, groovy R&B mix
Cardio Combo: music to exercise to
Martini Magic: my pre-dinner cocktail mix, upbeat and cool
Dinner: Dean Martin and the classics
Party Mix: great vocal, dance and rock hits
LOVE: music to get you in the mood
Bath: time for you to relax and breathe

I am not a fan of movie soundtracks played out as albums as the songs tend to be all over the place and can disrupt the flow of the mood. The other thing that does my head in is when people play DJ at your house and end up jumping about from one song to the next. It also kills the mood. Take the stress out of the evening and put your playlist on ‘shuffle’ or ‘genre’ for an unexpected order.

If you don’t have a great ear for music, and think this is all way too hard, then ask a friend who loves music to help you out. Obviously its important that you actually like the kind of music they play. Buy an iPod and ask them  to upload several of their favorite playlists on it. I have 4 iPods that have been gifted to me and I play them more than I play my own. Music makes all the difference!


Everyone should have an escape plan

By “escape” I mean a reasonably priced holiday destination where you can go and enjoy great food, some quiet time and a spectacular beach. When I lived in Australia, for me, that place was Belongil Beach, Byron Bay. Now I live in New York that place is Tulum, Mexico. It’s one of my favorite places on earth.

I usually head to Tulum twice a year. It’s only a short flight from New York plus a one hour drive from Cancun Airport. I’m actually heading down there again on Dec 27th for ten days and I can’t wait to swim in that incredible ocean. Not to mention the amazing local restaurants and hospitality. Mexican is one of my favorite cuisines however there are also some other amazing restaurants down there, such as my favorite, Hartwood.

Going to sleep with the waves crashing in the distance is about as good as it gets. There are some very reasonably priced cabanas you can stay in right on the ocean. Though my favorite is Coqui Coqui. It has an interior style and decor that really inspires me.

Here are a few pictures from my latest trip to Tulum. I would recommend going there soon before the whole world discovers it. You won’t regret it!


Get more out of your Christmas cheer this year and start decorating your HOMESPACE now!

Being the oldest of five kids, I remember Christmas as a time filled with lots of laughs and household madness. My Mum would cook an incredible roast turkey and my Grandmother would make an unbelievable pudding that was served with coins hidden inside each serving. My Dad would video the family being together every year and it became his favorite tradition.

In a way, it’s strange to celebrate Christmas in a hot climate such as Australia. Particularly when Santa is pictured wearing warm clothes and fake trees are covered in fake snow. It’s not until I celebrated my first Christmas in New York that I really ‘got’ the whole white Christmas fantasy. Now, every year, I love to walk down 5th Avenue, see the shop windows and really feel like I’m in a movie set. If you have never celebrated Christmas in New York it’s something I would definitely recommend.

Over time, I have really embraced decorating and celebrating the season. I particularly love the tradition of getting the tree and covering it with lights. As you see in the images below I use clumps of red berry bush to keep it more rustic. I also wrap empty boxes in shiny gold, red and green paper to go under the tree. It doesn’t take a lot to create a stunning table setting either, or to fill the house with small details that really add to the magic. I have attached a number of images that I hope will give you some inspiration and ideas to create your own Christmas magic.  And don’t leave it ’till the last minute to start enjoying it!


The 30-day “Better Feeling” challenge

I often listen to clips and audio books from Abraham-Hicks as they are full of incredible insights. Esther and Jerry Hicks have been creating the Abraham material for nearly 25 years, and their books often feature on the New York Times bestseller list. Keep an open mind and take eight minutes to watch Esther Hicks talk about releasing resistance and becoming a happier person through the ‘Better Feeling’ thought process.


Ananda was recently featured in LUXE (Interiors + Design) magazine. A big thank you to Karen Kurlander for the great article and Grey Crawford for the photography. Check out the article.


Celebrate the people around you. There is enough great stuff for everyone to enjoy.

When we are going through challenging times in our lives, especially in career and finance, it’s easy to look at the success of those around us and ask, ‘Where is my breakthrough and success’, or, ‘Why does that person seem to have all the luck?’

There is actually enough success and abundance for everyone. Focusing on what you don’t have, and what others do have, will only leave you stuck in a negative state. To move forward to a place of abundance and joy it’s important to celebrate everyone’s success and to be grateful for those around you who are achieving their dreams. Be inspired by their dreams, not threatened by them.

Over the last few weeks I have been doing a few brainstorming sessions with friends and business contacts. I am always humbled by how many people in my life want to see me succeed. People who want to see you succeed and celebrate your accomplishments are people you want in your life.

It’s also important to share your struggles and frustrations with those close to you. This keeps you grounded and allows them to support you in the tough times as well. I’m not saying you should become a person who is always complaining about your situation but when someone asks how you are doing it’s sometimes good to be honest and open. Let him or her know that you are in fact frustrated, or struggling with something, rather than just telling them everything is great. This is particularly true for someone who always appears to have their shit together. Your friends and family want to feel like they are supporting you as well. When you feel stuck it’s often a friend’s simple suggestion or bit of advice that can really help you have a breakthrough.

We are all in this journey together. Life isn’t a competition or a race. It’s an adventure filled with highs and lows, breakthroughs and breakdowns. The challenges and lessons don’t just end one day. The secret of the journey is to enjoy it daily. That’s the answer! And ultimately it’s the best part of this rollercoaster ride we’re on called life.