“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” – E. L. Doctorow

writingI have written and spoken many times about strategies for creating authentic happiness, and the recurring theme has always been “Happiness is not something you can pursue; it is who you are”. Experiencing the kind of lasting happiness that can maximise your overall satisfaction with life is less about accumulating and more about acknowledging and allowing; to make a genuine connection with that quiet part of you that has always been OK regardless of your circumstances and the stories you tell yourself about what is going on (or not going on as the case may be).

As happiness expert Dr. Robert Holden would put it, “To be truly happy is to finally end the search”.

There are many ways to access your natural wellbeing that are far more effective than trying to ignore your problems and convince yourself you are happy, “No, really… I AM happy”. One of the most powerful and rewarding techniques is to practice writing about specific positive aspects of your life in a way that pushes the pleasure buttons in your brain.

Now, I doubt that I am the first personal development bod to harp on at you about the benefits of putting your thoughts onto paper, but here I’m not so much referring to writing in order to clarify your goals or to keep track of your progress and development. I’m not even talking about writing to help you make sense of things. I’m talking about writing for writing’s sake; to take advantage of the profoundly different psychological effect that writing has on your neurology as compared with speaking or daydreaming.

Humans are designed to be happy. It has been hardwired into our make up to return to a natural state of wellbeing when we are not experiencing stress. The issue for many, though, is that stressful thoughts linger on in the imagination long after any real stressful event has passed (and often on events that either didn’t or won’t take place at all). This causes the natural path back to wellbeing to get a bit clogged up. What we need is a way of cutting through the debris.

Extensive research by Positive Psychologists shows that giving people exercises to do that require them to focus on particular positive aspects of their life consistently increases their happiness over the long term. It has been shown to be even more potent when participants are asked to engage in written activities. The act of writing about happiness related topics causes the brain to make deeper, more meaningful connections that not only improve your mood in the moment, but that ensures the happy effect sticks around long after your conscious attention has been directed elsewhere.

I explain the difference as being, when we speak (either out loud or to ourselves) we are simply narrating our thoughts. When we stop speaking, those thoughts dissolve like chalk being wiped off a blackboard. When we write, however, we have to go on a deeper search in order to bring the meaning to life within a well constructed sentence. We are essentially stirring up the river bed of our knowledge and experience, on which the unconscious continues to ponder long after the writing has ended. After all it takes a while for a river bed to settle down.

There are a set of common ingredients for happiness that we are all naturally programmed to enjoy, and when we focus on each of them we cannot help but feel an elevated level of wellbeing. These ingredients include:

– The experience of experiencing gratitude
– Remembering happy times from the past
– Fantasising about a great future
– Acknowledging the importance of others in our lives
– Reviewing our recent successes

Regularly setting aside little windows of time to write about these areas gives your mind a wonderful opportunity to steer itself in an upwardly happy direction. Literally spending 5 minutes a day on one of these topics, and alternating the topics you write about, not only keeps your spirits lifted but, according to the research results, is highly likely to make your more successful too. To me this makes a lot of sense. Being happy brings with it a sense of openness to new possibilities, heightened creativity and a natural desire to keep going. Happiness leads to success far more often than success leads to happiness (are you bored of me saying that yet? :o)


HOMEWORK


I’ve stolen this exercise from Professor Richard Wiseman (author of “:59 Seconds – Think a little, change a lot”). It is called ‘The Perfect Diary’. I think its brilliance lies in its simplicity. There is no excuse not to find 5 minutes a day to do this! It covers many of those compelling happiness ingredients and encourages your mind to think more broadly about how you derive deep pleasure from your life:

Unlike a conventional diary or journal, ‘The Perfect Diary’ is designed to simply direct, capture and enhance your happiness thoughts in a different way each day over a five day period (you can have the weekend off for good behaviour!) The purpose is not to try to come up with a right answer or to sensor what you write. Just spend a few minutes freely writing from the heart and then get on with the rest of your day, leaving your unconscious to devour the learning. Repeat again the following week:

Monday: Thanksgiving – Write about a least three things you are truly thankful for in your life. They could be absolutely anything: family / friends, health, food, education, work, nature, etc…. Be sure to cover why you are so grateful for them.

Tuesday: Terrific Times – Cast your mind back over your life and write about one of your happiest memories. You might start of with big events, but as the weeks unfold you could equally write about less official occasions when you just had a really great time. What was it about this time that was so happy?

Wednesday: Future Fantastic – Spend a few moments writing about how you would love your life to be in the future. What has gone really well? How have you grown as a person? What are you doing? Who are you with? It doesn’t matter whether you think this can be achieved, the purpose is to put a smile on your face right now (it’s up to your unconscious mind to look for ways to bridge the gap)!

Thursday: “Dear…….” – Pick someone in your life who is really important to you and then spend some time writing them a little note to express your love and appreciation for them. What is it that you value about them? What kind of a difference do they make to your life? You don’t have to actually give the letter to the person; the idea is for you to linger on that ‘feel good’ aspect of your life.

Friday: Haven’t you done well!! – Think back over the last week and write down as many things as you can that went well for you. It doesn’t matter how big or small, could be anything from a promotion to a simple compliment; from winning a competition to find a parking space.

I encourage you to keep this up for at least a month so that you can experience for yourself how a just little written focus in the right direction can make your world a very happy place indeed. Happy writing!


Take great care. Namaste.

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“The world is what you think it is.” – Serge Kahili King

cinemaHumour me for a moment and just imagine that you’re in a cinema. Everything around you is dark apart from the screen that’s showing the latest blockbuster suspense thriller. You’re sat there wide-eyed, holding a piece of popcorn in front of your open mouth as if it’s frozen in time. It’s just getting to the really juicy bit – the girl is being followed, but by who? And what will be her fate when they catch her? She trips! The chilling music gets faster and louder; the camera zooms right in on the action. You hold your breath; your heart beats faster; you push back into your seat; the anticipation is almost too much to bear…..

And then all of a sudden, for no apparent reason, the music changes to the Benny Hill theme tune! The colour gets really bright and vivid, and the film speeds up to double time so that the characters start to move in a kind of comical fashion. Now, as you look up at that screen, no matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to continue the feeling of fear or anxiety about what is unfolding in front of you. It just seems ridiculous.

I’ve used this kind of cinematic example many times before with my clients and workshop attendees, because it’s a perfect metaphor for understanding how our experience of life is created purely through the projection of our thoughts. Now, replace the movie of the girl being followed with that other movie of how everyone will laugh at you if you fail. Or how about the one where you know you’d be rubbish at a particular task so it’s not worth even attempting it? Or the one about your boss firing you; or the one about how someone might somehow expose you as being a fraud; or how your parents never take you seriously; or what ever movie you like to run on a regular basis.

Notice how compelling and realistic you make it, and as you replay the scene over and over, pay attention to how you begin to feel in response.

But it’s just a movie; a thought.

If you knew that you were the Director of that movie what direction would you want to take it to make it more enjoyable to watch? Horror movies are great for entertainment, but when they are about your own life, that’s another story. Wouldn’t you rather be watching a ‘feel good’ classic?

One of the best explanations I’ve discovered for simplifying the whole subject of how our thoughts create our realities comes from the success coach, Michael Neill. He describes that there are three vital ingredients that must exist in order for us create a life-like experience of the world around us. They are Energy, Consciousness and Thought.

To understand the part that these three elements play let’s go back to that cinema, only this time I’ll meet you up in the projection booth. This is where the magic happens.

 

Consciousness is like the projector itself. It sheds lights onto whatever happens to be in front of it at the time, in this case a reel of film, and the result is the image that you see on the screen. It only ever shines the right amount of light to illuminate the area of that screen with everything remaining in darkness. To put it another way, if it’s not lit up, it’s unconscious.

Of course, nothing could be projected if the projector is not plugged in because it needs electricity. You provide the energy to your consciousness by simply being alive. Some would regard this energy as being your life-force, your essence, your soul or your spirit. You’re plugged in!!

Thought is the reel of film itself. We each have thousands of thoughts every day, most of which glide by harmlessly in the background of our awareness, but some make it to the front of the projector. They get illuminated and magnified larger than life onto that big screen, complete with panoramic and Technicolor qualities and dramatic score and sound effects. Before long you are gripped by the emotional impact of the compelling plot, this is real on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff.

 

But here’s the thing. What if you don’t like the movie? It’s no good going up to the screen and trying to get it to change from there. No amount of shouting at the characters or being frustrated with the storyline is going to alter the ending; that has already been decided. The world doesn’t care what thoughts you project out onto it, in the same way that a screen doesn’t care what images is cast onto it.

The only way to swap this movie for a better one – say a comedy or a romance or one where the good guy always wins – is to realise that that up there in the projection booth is a library of film to suit any taste. All you need to do is go up there, select the one you’d like to watch and put it in front of your projector.

When you own the cinema, you get to choose the movie, and the quality of the movie you choose determines the quality of your life. So wouldn’t it be a good idea to start getting really picky about what you want to watch?


Homework:


Be a film critic this week. Plan to check-in with yourself at least a couple of times a day and review the kind of movies you are running in your head. Are they ones you’d pay good money to see, or would they win ‘Worst Picture’ at The Raspberry Awards. If they are more “boo-hiss” than “bravo”, change them for better ones. It’s that simple!

You might want to take it a step further and decide to play the leading part in the most wonderful adaptation of your life.

Namaste.

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“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” – Jimmy Dean

fingers crossedWhen I was a kid I would imagine that I could make things happen just by thinking about them. For example, if my best friend was coming over to play I’d look out for him from my bedroom window and try to control the exact moment he would come cycling around the corner into my road (I was an odd child!). I would close my eyes, count to ten and then open them again, expecting to see him arriving right on cue. I was never very good at it though!

What interests me about that childhood memory is that it follows a very similar pattern to how many of us still operate as adults. Not that that we consciously go around believing that we are controlling the external world with our thoughts, but that we do place firm expectations on how things are supposed to turn out and by when. When we are clear about what we want to have happen in the future we often rely on optimism as a way of assuring ourselves that everything will turn out just right.

I believe optimism is a vital quality to have, but there are different ways of doing it. Generally speaking there are two strategies for being optimistic, each of which leads to a very different kind of experience:

1 – HOPEFUL PREDICTIONS

This is the strategy that most people learn to adopt early on. It is partly based on the belief that Positive Thinking is the key factor that influences the outcome of a desire. It is also based on the belief that what seems reasonable to one person must also seem reasonable to another and therefore the intended result should be pretty much guaranteed. E.g. “It seems reasonable to me that I have worked in this company long enough to be included in the next round of promotions, so I don’t see that my boss will overlook me this time.”

‘Hopeful predictions’ involve us imagining desirable future scenarios and then placing our demands on how and when we expect them to manifest. This is all well and good if our predictions are based on sound probabilities, but when it is more of a finger in the air job we are often just setting ourselves up for a fall.

* I’m optimistic I’ll have been promoted within 6 months
* I’m optimistic I will win this year’s X Factor
* The sun will come out tomorrow
* This time next year I’ll be a millionaire
* I’ll be well again by Summer

Of course, when our ‘hopeful predictions’ actually do come true (by luck or otherwise) we naturally congratulate ourselves for staying positive and not letting obstacles get in the way. However, when they don’t, we get frustrated and feel hard done by. That is why it is common to hear people say things like “I’ve tried to be optimistic, but it just doesn’t work!”

The problem isn’t that Positive Thinking as a way of being optimistic isn’t effective. The problem is in thinking that the Universe should be working to our schedule! The law of cause and effect is the most reliable enabler of results, but when it comes to making optimism work for us rather than against us we must lose our obsession with timeframes!

 

2 – FAITH BASED OPTIMISM

Using faith as a basis for optimism is really about trusting the natural law of cause and effect. We all know that given the right conditions a flower will grow and bloom in its own good time. We don’t need to give it a deadline.

If the ‘effect’ is a beautiful flower opening up, the ‘cause’ must have been someone planting a seed in fertile soil and making sure it had the right amount of sunlight and water to encourage growth. We can always be optimistic that a flower will result because it is the nature of flowers to flourish under such conditions. What we can’t always guarantee is the precise moment the petals will burst open from the bud, but that’s ok – we can be patient ;o)

This is how faith based optimism works best for us. Rather than making hopeful predictions that circumstance will just swing in our favour, we need to understand the conditions that are most likely to cause the effect we want. As we go about providing those conditions we can have genuine faith that we are doing exactly what is needed for our seed to flourish. We cannot guarantee the exact moment it will bloom, but we can have faith that it will.

Faith based optimism can also mean not insisting on a specific goal having to be met, in order to free up some space and creativity to satisfy the fundamental desires that were driving that goal in the first place. For example, rather than pinning all her hopes on being promoted within 6 months, Sally may need to recognise that what is really important to her (besides money!) is the principle of being recognised and rewarded for adding real value to her employer by doing work that is challenging and meaningful. The key is then for her to ask “What kind of conditions do I need to create for myself in order to make that kind of outcome inevitable?” If she is then willing to drop her expectations of the specific deadline, her optimism can continually reassure her she is on the right track.

 

Here is another example of how to turn a ‘hopeful prediction’ into ‘faith based optimism’:

Hopeful Prediction:

“I am optimistic I’ll meet the girl / boy of my dreams and be married within 3 years. I’ll then have someone who can give me the life I want.”

What is the REAL underlying desire?:

“To enjoy companionship with someone who compliments my personality and who is open to giving and receiving affection within a loving relationship. I am quite an adventurous person and it would be great to share my life with someone who also sees life as a bit of an adventure… Oh, and kids would be nice too!!”

Conditions for Faith Based Optimism:

“I know that when I take full responsibility for nurturing my own wellbeing and happiness I am naturally more attractive to others. When I am happy in myself I tend to do the things that bring fun and adventure to my life, which causes me to express authentic joy in a way that reflects who I really am. If I am expressing my true happy self whilst doing fun and adventurous things, I’m likely to meet lots of other fun and adventurous people, of which one may well turn out to be… THE ONE.”


HOMEWORK


Pick an area of your life that you would love to be genuinely optimistic about.

Rather than being specific in exactly what needs to happen and when, take a step back and investigate the deeper, more general desire that wants to be satisfied.

Ask yourself, “If the kind of result I am looking for were a seed, what conditions would I need to provide to allow it to flourish?”

Then with patience, faith and love continue to do what you know to do give that seed every chance of life.


Take great care. Namaste.

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“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

u turnHave you ever noticed how much easier it is to spot something that’s wrong as opposed to everything else that is working well? I’m sure we can all think of people in our lives who have a special gift for shining a light on just about every broken thing there is to notice in the world :o)

But before we all hastily jump onto the ‘we must think positively’ wagon, it is worth knowing that it is actually a hard wired part of our mental functioning to filter our experiences by what might need to be fixed or improved. The underlying intention is not so much about being negative as it is about being efficient. Can you imagine how exhausting it would be for us to remain in a constant state of awareness of everything that doesn’t need our attention?!?!

Rather than trying to override this inbuilt talent for problem spotting, how about if we were to creatively utilise it as a catalyst for improving our circumstances instead.

A great exercise to demonstrate how this can be accomplished is the ‘Reversal Technique’, borrowed from Edward De Bono (the “Godfather of Lateral Thinking”). I first used this when delivering leadership training in the business world, but I’ve also found that it works brilliantly when applied to other general areas of life too.

The idea is to identify something in life that could really benefit from some improving. As an example, let’s say it is the relationship with a significant other.

The traditional approach would be to start off with the obvious question:


“What can I do to improve this relationship?”


While you are likely to come up with some answers, the chances are they will be few in number and not particularly ground breaking. After all, if it were that easy you would probably be doing all that stuff anyway!

A more creative way of getting the juices flowing would be to turn it around, and ask:


“What would I need to do really mess up this relationship?”


Almost immediately you’ll notice how quickly answers start flowing to you. Examples:


* Completely ignore them
* Spend all the money without consulting them
* Go AWOL for days at a time without telling them
* Constantly insult them or make them feel small
* Do all the things you know will annoy them
* Take no interest in their hobbies / passions


In order to make this fun (and more useful) include as many outlandish possibilities as you can think off. Resist censoring yourself; just let your imagination run riot. Examples:

* Make up embarrassing stories about them and post them on the internet
* Invite the entire England Rugby squad to move in for a month
* Donate all their prize possessions to charity
* Pretend you don’t even know them
* Encase yourself in a huge hamster ball so they can’t come anywhere near you


Now, if we left it there it would be a pretty rubbish exercise!! So here is where the reversing comes into it.

Go back to each of your answers in turn and determine what the complete opposite would be. Don’t just go for the obvious literal opposite; ask yourself what would be a truly wonderful way of ensuring this would never happen?

So if the answer you are reversing is ‘completely ignore them’, it won’t be particularly enlightening to just say ‘don’t ignore them’!! Instead you might decide on ‘ensure that I set aside at least half an hour every day to listen to them deeply and to really understand what is going on for them right now’.

Likewise, if the answer to be reversed is ‘make up embarrassing stories about them and post them on the internet’, a nice reversal might be ‘make a point of dropping it into public conversation that you are very proud of something they have done, or just how much you appreciate them.’

By all means don’t limit yourself to just one reversal per ‘problem’ answer; keep going and going until you are brimming with genius ideas for catapulting the both of you into relationship heaven ;o)

The point of doing it this way around is that it engages the part of your brain that will inevitably uncover many more realistic strategies for making improvements than had your original question been “So… erm… how can I make this work better?”


HOMEWORK


Identify any area of life, big or small, that you would like to improve (Suggested areas: finances, family, friends, skills, knowledge, processes, career, happiness / wellbeing, spirituality…)

Grab yourself a piece of paper and a pen and write out all the creative and ridiculous ways you can think of to completely mess up that area of your life. Remember, this time is for you to just get everything out, and not to prematurely try and find the solutions.

Then, when you’ve exhausted your brainstorming juices, reverse each of your problem answers to identify ‘World Class’ ways of taking action towards your desired outcomes.

Have fun and let me know how you get on.


Take great care. Namaste. 

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“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” Victor Frankl

freedomOne of the things I love most about coaching others is when they really get that creating more of what they want in their lives doesn’t have to be complicated. Nine times out of ten those light bulb moments follow on from a simple realisation that there is nothing wrong with them after all; it is just that what they have been doing (or thinking) up until that point has been misaligned with the kind of results they want experience.

This takes the attention away from them feeling as though they are the problem and somehow need to be ‘fixed’, and towards an honest curiosity about the law of cause and effect. The look of relief on their faces when it finally dawns on them that the fact they do not have everything they want isn’t to do with them being a bad, undeserving or unlovable person is really quite heart warming :o)

The reason so few people are readily willing to accept this is because we have been conditioned to believe that we live in an ‘outside – in’ world, where the cause of all our feelings (good or bad) lies in whatever happens to be going on around us at the time, and to what extent we are approved of by other people. In a nutshell we still believe we are ‘Stimulus / Response” creatures.

However, the one thing that really separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom is that we have evolved to be ‘self aware’. Simply put, this means we have the ability to have thoughts about our thoughts:

Example: We might have a fabulous idea for a new invention that everyone will want, but then shoot ourselves down when we realise that we are just being stupid and that no one would take us seriously!

It also means that we have feelings about our feelings:

Example: We might lose our cool in front of others and then feel embarrassed about it later.

This unique state of being self aware is very important because it is fundamental to our ability to direct our lives in any way we wish… as long as we understand how to make the most of it!!

Victor Frankl, creator of Logotherapy and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning”, explained that the reason he was able to survive the horrendous mental and emotional ordeal of being incarcerated at Auschwitz during the Holocaust was because he firmly understood that between stimulus and response there is always a space. It is in this space that we have the freedom to choose our reactions and attitudes towards anything. But most of us are so used to reacting without thinking that we fail to recognise that this space exists. It is not a fault; it is just conditioning.

So what can we do to utilise the value of this space? One of the most intuitive ways that I know of is in understanding the formula:

E (Event) + R (Response) = 0 (Outcome)

The quality of the OUTCOME we get to experience in relation to, well… anything, is always the result of the actual EVENT itself plus our own unique REPSONSE to it. And like all good formula’s we can apply numbers to demonstrate the point:

Let’s say the EVENT is worth 2 and the RESPONSE you give is also with a 2. That means the quality of the OUTCOME you experience has to be a 4. Simple!

But what if you hate 4’s? What if a 4 means that you have to feel like a victim? What if a 4 creates tension between you and others? What if a 4 makes you ill with stress?

What if what you really wanted was to experience a 10? Well then we would have to go back and review the components of the formula. If we did that we would soon realise that, actually, there is not always a lot we can do about the EVENT; that is usually out of our control (particularly when it has already happened!!). So that just leaves us with our RESPONSE. If we know the EVENT is a 2 and we are looking for an OUTCOME of 10, then our RESPONSE is going to have to be an 8.

Perhaps an 8 response is not letting the rain ruin your family picnic by bringing the fun of the outdoors indoors into your living room, rather than cancelling the event and getting frustrated when your disappointed children get upset.

Perhaps an 8 response is forgiving someone that hurt you rather than holding onto the resentment or planning their comeuppance.

Of course there are occasions when the primitive part of our brains kick in with the fight or flight response before the logical reasoning faculty of our higher brain has a chance to work its magic. But even when our unconscious reactions starts to take us somewhere we don’t want to go, that state of automatic defence need only last a moment until we remember who’s really driving the bus!! Then, the first step is to just stop and recognise you have an opportunity to ask yourself some questions:

How could I respond to this?

What are my options?

From the options available to me, what seems the wisest or kindest way for me to take it from here?

 


HOMEWORK


1 – Think of a recent situation in which your reaction to an event (or another person) may have contributed to a less than desirable outcome.

2 – Then grab a piece of paper and write the headings EVENT, RESPONSE and OUTCOME across the top.

3 – Use the headings to guide you in writing out the situation as you experienced it, making sure you separate the facts of the event from the way you emotionally filtered it at the time:

EXAMPLE 1:

EVENT = John said he was too busy to come to my party.

RESPONSE = I took it really personally and was hurt that my party wasn’t a priority for John. I vowed to give John the silent treatment and not invite him to any more of my social events… so there!!!

OUTCOME = There is now a very uncomfortable feeling between John and me, and I’ve heard that John feels really bad and doesn’t understand what he has done to upset me so much.

EXAMPLE 2:

EVENT = My computer crashed which meant I couldn’t get on with the work I was planning to do.

RESPONSE = I got really frustrated and started to rant about how technology is the bane of my life, if only it was like the good old days when things were simple and our lives were not ruled by robots!!!

OUTCOME = I got so worked up I needed to get out and go for a walk to clear my head, which wasted even more time.

4 – Now, think of at least three other (more productive) responses that you could have given in relation to that event. For each alternative response use your imagination to run a movie of how the outcome may have turned out more favourably for you.

5 – Having mentally rehearsed the cause and effect of your different response options, decide which feels right for you and make a commitment to follow that strategy for similar situations in the future.


Take great care. Namaste.

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“Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive – the risk to be alive and express what we really are.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

fearWouldn’t it be wonderful have a fool proof strategy for getting unstuck and moving forward again whenever you find yourself in the grip of fear?

I once had an almost obsessive desire to discover ‘the magic formula’ for overcoming fear in any situation. Not just so I could use it as a coaching tool but more so because I felt I could really do with it in my own life. However, having trawled through countless books, recordings, courses and seminars I finally came to the point of admitting defeat. I was ready to accept that there is no ONE ultimate exercise or intervention for combating all fear.

That was until, by chance, I heard someone use a phrase that literally stopped me in my tracks. In a moment of profound clarity I realised that the absolute antidote to fear could never be found in an exercise or technique, but rather in the acceptance of a simple truth. The phrase I heard was:

“The question is irrelevant; Love is the answer”

(All together now… Ahhhhhh!!)

At any moment in life there are only two spaces we can be operating from – The space or love or the space of fear. That may seem over simplistic, but when you sit with it for a while it is easy to connect with the truth of it. Let’s look at how these two powerful emotions drive us:

 

FEAR

Fear shows up in many forms, from the obvious to the heavily disguised. The obvious side of fear can be recognised by the physical and emotional discomfort we get through being scared, worrying or having a lack of confidence. The less obvious side of fear manifests in us having the desire to change or control our environment and the people in it. This happens when something inside of us feels threatened or insecure about what we perceive is going on in the outside world, because it doesn’t measure up to our ideas of how things are supposed to be. Sometimes this causes us to be protective: “I must control your actions because I couldn’t live with myself if something were to happen to you”, and sometimes it can come out as anger: “You must feel the wrath of my aggression until you feel obliged to comply with my model of the world”. The interesting thing about anger, though, is that it is not an assertion of power; it is a request for power from someone who is feeling powerless – or to put it another way, afraid.

Fear is also present whenever we judge, belittle or deliberately humiliate others, or when we seek their approval by showcasing our nice shiny badges of wealth and success.

 

LOVE

It is important to define what love means in this context. I am not referring to the romantic ‘fluffy bunny’ kind of love (although that does very much have its place!!). Here, I am referring to love as being a genuine acceptance and reverence for all. When we come from a space of love, fear finds itself out on the street. Love and fear cannot occupy the same space. You can alternate between the two, but you’ll never experience both at the same time. Love is what happens when we strip away our expectations of the world and reconnect with the innate wellbeing that is always present within us. Love is having a deep knowing that happiness and joy is an inside job. No matter what happens on the outside, your wellbeing remains intact because it is not dependent on the thoughts and actions of other people or the right kind of circumstances. Coming from a space of love means acting on your natural desire to show kindness and compassion to yourself and others, and to not expect them to adhere to your own personal standards. It is where unconditional really does mean unconditional. And if you want to get all spiritual about it, yes, it is where you feel at one with nature and the universe.
The difficulty in overcoming fear lies in the action of the ‘overcoming’ itself. In order overcome anything you first have to place your attention of the thing you want to get passed and give it permission to have power over you. Of course it is possible to win the battle, but that can take more time and energy than is necessary for you to exert (and there may be many more battles to come before you finally win the war).

Actually, I do have a lot belief in Susan Jeffer’s popular principle of “Feel the Fear and do it Anyway”, but I have certainly found that this is not always the most efficient (or kind) way of getting things done. In my experience, living fearlessly has less to do with ‘overcoming’ and more to do with shifting perspectives.

One of the most powerful questions I have come to rely on for bringing me out of that space of fear is “What would love do?”

Let’s take a couple of examples:

Scenario 1: You have to make an important presentation to a group of highly influential people.

What would fear do? Fear would have you imagining fluffing your lines, making a fool of yourself and being exposed as a fraud. Fear’s strategy to help you through this ordeal might be to picture the audience in their underwear or two feet tall so that you can tower over them and dominate them with your magnificence.

What would love do? Love would remind you that no one wants you fail. You have valuable knowledge that others want to know about and, as long as you remain true to that purpose, nothing can be threatened. Love’s strategy for guiding through this opportunity might be to send thoughts of warmth and well wishes to your audience before and throughout your presentation.
Scenario 2: Someone says something hurtful to you.

What would fear do? Fear would immediately feel the pain of the wound and lash out in defence. Something inside of you may feel broken or betrayed. You might try to redirect the attention toward their shortcomings in an attempt to re-establish a bit of power, or you might just feel you are the victim of some grave injustice.

What would love do? Love would recognise they are coming from a space of their own fear. They must be suffering in some way. When you know someone is suffering you can be compassionate. Even if there is nothing you can do at that time, love can remind you that your own innate wellbeing is not dependent on their thoughts and opinions of you in that moment.


HOMEWORK


Take a moment to be honest with yourself and think about a situation that you have not been handling particularly well lately (I know, I know, you’re perfect… but just humour me ;o). Perhaps you’ve been scared about an upcoming event. Perhaps you have been too controlling or harsh with someone close to you. Whatever that situation may be for you, spend some quality time contemplating these three questions:

“What is it specifically that I have been afraid of?”

Then,

“So, what has been the underlying positive intention of me responding in this way?”

Then,

“What would love do?”

 

Lots of love!!

Take great care. Namaste.

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